Writer/director Thomas Vinterberg and Mads Mikkelsen reunite following 2012’s harrowing The Hunt for this lo-fi dramedy about a social experiment with alcohol that goes a tad awry. Mikkelsen plays depressed history teacher/father/husband Mark. Shunned by his students and disconnected from family, Mark resides in a numb nowhere, lost in life, until one evening, while out with friends/teacher colleagues, he is presented with a solution to his problem.
After learning of a theory by Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, suggesting humans lack 0.5% alcohol in their bloodstream and aren’t operating at optimum capacity, Mark decides to remedy himself by topping up his daily booze intake to the requisite level, rendering himself constantly, moderately sozzled in the process. Mark’s teacher friends also participate and document the experiment which takes several turns for the bumbling and anarchic, as the clan’s rising camaraderie threatens careers and personal lives.
Vinterberg’s high concept script, penned with regular co-writer Tobias Lindholm, drifts steadily but the drama isn’t commanding enough to efficiently power the plot. Mark is on the cusp of losing everything but this isn’t coerced with the fact that maybe what he risks losing (his work and family) could also be the cause of his anguish. This conflict could have made his journey more complex (if accentuated) and one of inebriated self-discovery ascending to a cathartic epiphany more than a simple descent into booze ridden despair.
Themes simmer at the subtext under a slightly predictable plot path, and aren’t integrated enough for Another Round to resound as a rich and stirring drama that its writers are more than capable of. Vinterberg, as director, expertly blends genres with realism in brilliantly acted scenes of debauchery and drunken faux pas which make the film fascinating despite its structural flaws. Without these facets, Another Round’s intriguing yet oddly flimsy yet high concept could easily have been spun into a tawdry teen frat comedy.
Another Round struggles to find and refine (let along walk) the straight line between genres while juggling pathos, poignancy and pandering, with elements of enfant terrible style provocation. Instead the plot trots along an MOR path towards a jimmied-in, bafflingly upbeat and ineffective conclusion. Some laughs land hard and its understated drama rings true but it doesn’t rocket the plot with potency, substance or structure enough to resonate, despite an amiable air, authenticity and stifled, heartfelt laughs.