Danish film Another Round (aka Druk) released this week on streaming, and I immediately jumped to watch it after it won Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival and was named Denmark’s submission for the Academy Awards for Best International Feature. And as a Mads Mikkelsen fan, I look forward to seeing him in more dramatic roles outside of big budget Hollywood. Another Round did not disappoint, and is a great watch for anyone looking for an emotional ensemble film led by a strong group of actors with an unusual premise.
The film covers a group of four friends, all high school teachers in or approaching middle age. Mikkelsen takes center stage as Martin, a history teacher who has a rude awakening after being confronted by his students and their parents about his lackluster teaching abilities causing lower test scores for the students. Matters are only made worse by the growing distance between him and his wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie), and their children. Psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), meanwhile is struggling with raising his two young children with his wife, whom he is constantly at odds with. He comes across a theory that humans have a blood alcohol content that is 0.05% too low, causing lethargy and introversion, and brings it up to his friends as a possible psychological experiment. P.E. teacher Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and music teacher Peter (Lars Ranthe) also are looking to spice up their monotonous lives and agree, with Martin, to test the theory by keeping their BAC at or above 0.05% during work hours to monitor the effects.
The initial results are as expected; their personalities at work begin to shine, they can connect better with their students, and they feel the high of careless youth that they had long been missing. The high can’t last though, and soon the experiment starts to rear its ugly head as they raise their target BAC.
This plot could easily go off the rails, with the setup sounding like an intro to all sorts of wild antics that you would see in Hollywood comedies. However, writer-director Thomas Vinterberg avoids the expected tropes and puts together a heartfelt ensemble piece about the search for youth and belonging. Cliches about alcoholism are also avoided, though more overt criticism is made about Denmark’s youth drinking culture. The message is conveyed with nuance through the main characters’ developments as their BAC goes up and once it comes back down again. The drinking is a cover for their deeper struggles with aging and identity, so the character’s inner turmoil take center stage.
Mikkelsen gives a wonderful performance as Martin, bringing a lot of great depth to the table. Though he is best known in the US for playing movie villains in action movies, this film definitely made me want to see him do more dramatic roles like this one where we can see his softer side. Vinterburg worked with Mikkelsen previously in 2012 drama The Hunt, and knows to give him the material that will make him shine.
Though I wouldn’t quite place Another Round fully in the comedy category, it has some more lighthearted comedic moments sprinkled in amongst the tragic. The drama never feels forced or overwhelming, and the ending wraps things up with a beautiful scene that will linger after the credits come to an end.
Score: 4 out of 5 stars
If you’re looking for a good quality drama that is thought provoking with a great cast, go for Another Round. It may be making appearances this coming awards season after charming the festival circuit. It can be refreshing to watch films from outside the Hollywood bubble, and this film is a great example of that. The story is fresh and the acting so natural, with expert filmmaking that makes for an enjoyable and memorable experience.