VIFF Review: ‘Another Round’ has Mads Mikkelsen giving one of the best performances of the year

Most people have had, or will have, a moment like the one Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is having at the start of Another Round. Coasting through life, disengaged from his work as a school teacher, the parents of his students organise an intervention because they know their children are going to be ill-prepared. Disengaged from his home life, exacerbated by his wife working nights as he is working days, or is that her choice because he is simply not present?

At dinner with four colleagues one night, following a confession that he knows he has lost something but can’t exactly put his finger on what, someone hypothesises that the human body has a 0.05% blood alcohol deficiency; that people are more relaxed, more confident, and better able to achieve when they are just slightly drunk. Martin and his friends decide to put this hypothesis to the test.

The idea of being slightly drunk all the time sounds like an appealing one, empowering even. The fantastic thing about having slightly less than two drinks is that it can feel like anything is possible[1]. The problem with having slightly less than two drinks is it leads to the urge to have slightly more than two drinks.

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Martin and his friends initially prove the theory correct. His classroom becomes a quiz show that the students actively look forward to. His marriage is reinvigorated, to the point where his wife is brought to tears by having missed him being present.

His friends become more engaged teachers as well. Tommy becomes a better coach, Peter becomes a better mentor, and Nikolaj finds joy in his family that he felt he had lost. This initial burst of success and confidence leads them to ask, “what would happen if we drank a little more?”

Each of the four actors, Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, and Magnus Millang, is having a great time through the film’s second act. One scene in particular, where they begin experimenting with higher blood alcohol content has them dancing to The Meters Cissy Strut, is an absolute joy to watch.

The whole film ultimately belongs to Mikkelsen, though, who easily gives one of the year’s best performances. For an actor who can do so much with an action as simple as lifting an eyebrow, seeing him become fully expressive takes his performance to a whole new level. Plus, there’s another dance scene that is such an expression of hope and joy that you will undoubtedly be left with a smile on your face.

That’s not to say that the film’s message is that alcohol is great. Indeed, some people can function well when slightly drunk, but no one functions well when they are completely smashed. Each character faces the consequences of their choices, and not all of them have happy endings. Ultimately the film seems to land on moderation as its message. Sure, drink, but not to excess. The film’s ending is not a completely happy one and might challenge some, but for me, it is a great conclusion to the story about a man who needed to wake up and start living.

Another Round is easily one of my favourite films at the Vancouver International Film Festival so far and likely one of my favourites the year. So definitely don’t miss it when you get your chance to see it.

[1]: I can’t help but remember this idea being explored by British comedians Mitchell & Webb, too, in their “Inebriati” sketch.


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