Another Round-the friends at dinner. With Thomas Bo Larsen as Tommy, Mads Mikkelsen as Martin, Magnus Millang as Nicolaj, and Lars Ranthe as Peter

 Another Round, the Danish film by director Thomas Vinterberg, was recently nominated for both a Best International Feature Film Oscar, and, in a rare move, a Best Director Oscar. Another Round is a beautiful and painful meditation on friendship, mid-life crises, and the role that alcohol plays in our lives. Four friends, all teaching at the same high school, all feeling stalled out, decide to embark on an experiment, wherein they will drink enough to keep their blood alcohol level at .05% for the entire working day, and see what happens. Sure enough, it jolts the foursome out of their ennui. They reclaim their passion for teaching, and their enjoyment of the students. Their confidence and self-esteem blossom; their capacity for joy. It’s fun to watch.

Slippery Slope

Two of the friends, Martin and Nicolaj, played by Mads Mikkelsen and Magnus Millang, are married with kids. Their wives are not amused by their husbands’ sudden unreliability. Being pleasantly drunk means choosing fun over responsibility, and the guys end up going out after work, blowing off home responsibilities, spending scads of money on raucous booze-soaked dinners in upscale restaurants. Eventually, the friends decide to up the ante, by getting a little drunker during the day. Finally, they decide to take it all the way and get as drunk as humanly possible to see what affect it has on their lives. You knew the fun couldn’t last.

More than booze

Another Round may sound shallow and silly here, but it’s not. Martin, Nicolaj, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe) are lonely, either in their marriages, or without a mate. They are frustrated and bored in the way that many of us middle aged folks become. Fortunately, Vinterberg never lets them drift into self-pity. These are likable, relatable guys, and the actors have fantastic chemistry together. It’s a warm movie, and it’s a treat to see Mads Mikkelsen play a normal person. Who does an endearing dance routine at the end. (It works, trust me)

The Role of Alcohol

In his award-season interviews, Vinterberg said he was actually making a film about drinking culture in Denmark. He thought he was telling a very local story. But Another Round’s global success reinforces the writer’s adage that if you focus on the specific, you often end up telling a universal tale. Alcohol has such a unique place in western culture. It’s a social lubricant, a rite of passage, the basis for hilarious stories. But when you are young, you never know who will cross that line into addiction, ruining marriages, killing people in accidents, wasting lives.  Another Round brings the viewers up, and crashes us down, ending on a bittersweet note. I loved it.

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