Arts

Oscar-winner Another Round 'a life-affirming and crowd-pleasing cocktail'

Another Round: Mads Mikkelsen as Martin
Damon Smith

ANOTHER ROUND (12A, 117 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe, Thomas Bo Larsen, Maria Bonnevie, Magnus Sjorup, Silas Cornelius Van. Director: Thomas Vinterberg.

Released: July 2

I'VE never enjoyed the taste of alcohol. Consequently, sobriety has been my steadfast companion for 47 years aside from one ritualistic shot of honey-flavoured Yukon Jack whisky garnished with a mummified human toe to earn my membership of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club in Canada.

Without the tangy personal experience of a tipsy indiscretion or hangover, it's hard for me to challenge Norwegian philosopher and psychologist Finn Skarderud, who hypothesises that humans are born with a 0.05 per cent blood alcohol level shortfall.

His theory – that a sustained increase in blood alcohol content (BAC) promotes relaxation, creativity and openness – is rigorously tested by four disillusioned teachers in Thomas Vinterberg's Oscar-winning coming-of-middle age comedy drama.

The men gather data for an academic study to determine if regular swigs of wine, whisky and vodka can improve communication with their students and plaster cracks in their personal lives. The only stipulation is they must not drink after 8pm or at weekends – maintaining a 0.05 per cent BAC during the working week purely to validate the scientific theory.

Dedicated to the memory of Danish writer-director Vinterberg's teenage daughter, who died during filmmaking, Another Round enthusiastically chugs down its refreshing premise, imbued with delicate notes of romance, tragedy and joy.

Mads Mikkelsen anchors the central cast with an emotionally rich and layered performance as a family man, who fears he has become entrenched in monotonous patterns after a carefree youth that promised much until fatherhood forced him to choose security over ambition.

He plays history teacher Martin, whose bored students struggle to follow his haphazard lessons, which are sometimes delivered verbatim from a well-thumbed textbook.

His marriage to wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) is stagnant – she works night shifts – and sons Jonas (Magnus Sjorup) and Kasper (Silas Cornelius Van) barely register his presence.

During a 40th birthday meal for fellow teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) with colleagues Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), the men debate Skarderud's hypothesis and forge a secret pact to drink their way out of a rut.

The experiment delivers encouraging initial results: Martin's students become engaged, music teacher Peter channels a choir's sweet harmony and sports master Tommy bolsters the footballing prowess of an uncoordinated weakling named Specs.

"I haven't felt this good in ages," gushes Martin, who proposes they all increase their BAC above 0.05 per cent

Another Round is a life-affirming and crowd-pleasing cocktail that slips down sweetly, even with a generous glug of salty tears in the film's second half. Handheld camerawork courtesy of cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grovlen feels intimate and natural.

It's a perfect fit as teachers' lives spin out of control and the script, co-written by Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, soberly acknowledges the perils of excessive drinking.

Raise a glass and toast Vinterberg's bittersweet, intoxicating brew.

Rating: 4/5

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