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Another Round

Mads Mikkelsen's latest film serves up an alcohol-fuelled experiment, but should he be popping the corks about the resulting storyline?

There is a certain, unplanned, comic timing in the fact that in a week when Denmark played England in the Euro 2020 tournament, an event saddled by the consumption of many hundreds of thousands of pints of alcohol, a new film was officially released in the UK all about the effects of drinking too much.

The comedic links are further enhanced by the fact that the star of the film, Mads Mikkelsen, also fronted the adverts for Carlsberg beer. The film itself, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, is a slightly tongue-in-cheek, comic examination of whether or not by maintaining a minimum amount of alcohol in your blood system you can "improve" as a person in terms of outlook, performance and interaction with the rest of society.

This minimum level is not the standard amount of blood alcohol content that exist by default, which has a nominal level around 0.05%. Instead it is proposed to ramp it up a factor of 10 to 0.5% and beyond.

Yes, we all know that alcohol can act as a social lubricant and hence the well-known phrase found on many signs, normally within a toilet: "If it wasn't for alcohol, I'd still be a virgin," but is there a limit to its comedic value? That’s what this film tries to ask without being entirely successful.

The staging for the experiment is based around four - male, obviously - teachers who are all having different issues with their lives, whether in their personal relationships, their ability to motivate their students or just a degree of loneliness with the existence of life.

At a 40th birthday party for one of the teachers - cliché number one in referring to midlife crisis - one of the teachers, whose particular discipline is psychology, puts forward a theory promoted by another professor - that by having this higher blood alcohol content at all times, it may improve one's mood and suit the body balance more naturally. This in turns should feed into being a better teacher/lover/person.

We then are fed a sequence of stereotypical images of what's it like to be in the company of a happy set of drunks. There's singing and dancing and carefree enjoyment as responsibilities are shed and a typically selfish and more hedonistic lifestyle is pursued. People are seen traipsing semi naked along a street after stealing drink; falling off tables; being found unconscious outside the wrong house, with facial cuts and bruises. Nothing too ground-breaking there, but it raises a few knowing laughs. There are plenty of humorous moments that most drinkers have been through at some point in their drinking life.

This 'happy' phase continues for 90 or so of the film's 117 minutes' running time. At that point the film appears to take a bit of a guilt trip and look at some of the destructive traits that a relationship with alcohol can create; how it doesn't remove loneliness and instead can increase isolation and despair.

But an opportunity to deal with serious matters concerning how people's livelihoods are often destroyed, with high personal cost to families and friendships, is quickly moved along.

We are even served the usual line that, 'We're not alcoholics, because alcoholics can't control what they want - but we can'. Is that single line supposed to justify everything else that goes on before and afterwards, when clearly the negative impact of alcohol is more than just a few words?

People on the fringes are often the collateral damage in such a destructive, drink obsessed lifestyle, but there are some nice performances, including by one of the few sober people in the film: Anika, wife of Martin, played Maria Bonnevie.

A confrontational scene in a cafe does generate the palpable tension and realism that these issues can lead to. It's just a shame that more time and detail was not paid to provide a more balanced reveal of the darker side of this reality. Within 10 minutes or so of touching on these all-too-relevant issues, we have a requisite funeral - and what's the best way to go out for a funeral? Have a wake, get pissed, and everything will be all right.

Another Round? Sorry, but I’m driving.

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