Another Round (M) - 117 minutes
Dutch courage is a term used to describe strength or confidence gained from drinking alcohol.
History teacher, husband and father Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) has lost his mojo.
As the music teacher, Peter (Lars Ranthe), points out to him while celebrating a third teacher’s – psychology instructor Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) – 40th birthday, when he (Peter) first started at the school 12 years ago Martin was “a big man”.
But that is long behind him.
Martin’s lessons are bland, his connection with his beautiful wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie) dissipated years ago and his two teenage boys ignore him.
Now, apart from teaching without any passion (his senior students even call a meeting, which also involves their parents, to discuss their concerns), Martin doesn’t do much and doesn’t see many people.
All that changes at that 40th birthday party at which he gets together for a boozy, top end dinner with three fellow teachers from the same school.
The only one I haven’t yet mentioned is the guy in charge of PE, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen).
A taciturn Martin, who says he is driving, sticks with soda water, while the others imbibe freely.
Nikolaj helps him change his mind, when he cites a Norwegian philosopher and psychiatrist named Finn Skårderud, who theorised that man was born with a 0.05 blood alcohol level deficit.
After what turns out to be a fun night, the group determines they will test the hypothesis and legitimise it by writing a psychological essay about their “experiment”.
They determine to follow the course of acclaimed American novelist Ernest Hemingway who drank every day, but not after 8pm.
Their target is a blood alcohol reading of 0.05% and they will attend and teach classes that way.
It works. Martin loses his inhibitions and engages his students in a manner they had not seen before.
But the other teachers, too, are also better off for alcohol in their systems.
A second phase of the experiment involves upping the ante and then upping it again, until their world comes crashing down.
Along the way, Martin reconnects with his wife (albeit briefly) on a canoeing trip with the family (which they used to do regularly but haven’t done for eight years), but significant trouble is just around the corner.
Another Round is the brainchild of Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, who wrote the screenplay with Tobias Lindholm and directs.
He wanted to create a tribute to alcohol, while acknowledging that people also die from excessive drinking.
In other words, while alcohol can be a relaxant, it can also kill.
The question of how much is too much is at its core.
The movie starts with students participating in an alcohol-riddled race challenge and, much later, when Martin asks his senior class who drinks, everyone puts up their hands.
As an unashamed teetotaller (purely through choice, rather than need), I found the concept explored in the film engaging but worrying, in terms of the message it sends.
I loved the fact that each of the teachers had issues. They all played their roles well and you care about them, even if most of the focus is on Martin.
You also worry about the train wreck that you see unfolding. Of course, that is the whole point of the picture.
Another Round, then, is both charming and alarming. It provides food for thought.
I felt the set up was excellent and it developed nicely, but it fell down in the final act, which I found too uplifting.
Rated MA, it scores a 7 to 7½ out of 10.