Eight years after The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg gets the old band back together for a rollicking good time in Another Round. Necking half-a-bottle of Smirnoff before starting a day of work would generally be considered grounds for a pretty serious intervention.
But Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) will soon be having the time of his life. Though when the fun stops, will he? Well aware of the hangover that comes the morning after the night before, the prolific Danish director’s latest film is a riot of drunken fun.
But it also digs into the melancholy of middle age and the importance of paying attention to the tell-tale signs of depression. It’s OK to not be okay – and for typically stoical men to show emotional weakness, to be open about their feelings. A group of long-time mates don’t often need an excuse to knock back a whiskey or two, but rarely do they do so in the name of a scientific study. Before an early morning tipple becomes the new normal, middle age is kicking in, wives are nagging, kids are peeing the bed, teaching is a drag and Martin has well and truly lost his mojo. So, at his 40th birthday meal, Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) makes a bold suggestion.
He, Martin and their pals, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe), are to apply Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud’s principle that human kind would be happier, more productive and fulfilled if a permanent 0.05% blood alcohol level was maintained at all times. An interesting theory that the boys put to the test – immediately, vigorously, hilariously. The Dutch courage – or is it Danish – that comes from being half cut sees Martin’s history lessons soar to new heights and some laugh out loud moments.
The same for psychology and music, but best for football coach Tommy not to share his ‘water’ with a kid who’s forgotten to bring a half-time drink. “I haven’t felt this good in ages,” says Martin as the group takes stock of the sociological, psychological and professional successes of their endeavour. However, any scheme that uses Ernest Hemingway’s daily boozing as a benchmark is bound to come unstuck at some point. And when they up the ante with absinthe-infused cocktails, the sight of four grown men dancing around Nikolaj’s living room to Cissy Strut by The Meters may be a joyous cinematic moment, but the consequences have all of them questioning whether it was worth it.
With the cracks of a crumbling marriage etched across his face, Mikkelsen is on typically top form in Another Round. Along with his frequent co-writing partner Tobias Lindholm, the director is clearly at ease in the assembled company, just as there is something of a scotch-induced warm embrace to spending time with Martin and the gang.
A bitter twist in the tale, and Vinterberg’s dedication of the film to his daughter Ida, who tragically died in a car accident in 2019, mean that there is pause for reflection once the booze wears off. It doesn’t hit the heights of former collaborations, but there’s a lot to drink in and appreciate here, and Mikkelsen’s all-dancing finale is one of the most exultant, triumphant moments in recent cinema memory.
The BFI London Film Festival 2020 takes place from 7-18 October. bfi.org.uk/london-film-festival
Matthew Anderson | @MattAndo63