UK release, July 2nd; certificate 12A
I hoped Another Round, an international Oscar winner about alcohol, might at least be entertaining, despite some obvious flaws. But I was disappointed.
I am no film critic, but I believe etiquette demands some positives at this point. The film is well made, well acted and shot, and there are moments of real pathos and extended periods of the bleak sadness that Scandinavia is so good at.
The lasting sadness, however, is that all this undoubted artistic skill and talent was employed in exploring alcohol through an idea even its own supposed inventor, psychiatrist Finn Skarderud, says was no more than an offhand joke.
There is also a Smirnoff vodka bottle put in the hands of photogenic lead actor Mads Mikkelsen, who just happens to also be the face of brewer Carlsberg. It is hard to imagine either appear accidentally or without conditions attached.
The premise is, some tell me, not even an original joke, but an oft-repeated psychiatrists’ common room gag, made funny mainly because it is obvious nonsense. The idea is, I should say, we are born with a deficit of 0.05% of alcohol in our blood.
The film cracks on, nonetheless, making this patently phoney idea its intellectual cornerstone. The audience is thereby invited to suspend their disbelief for a large chunk of a rather plodding 2.5 hours of image after image superficially “proving” the theory.
And for about two-thirds of the film things go swimmingly. Four grouchy middle-aged Danish men start teaching tiddly, perform like champs and generally regain their lost mojo. “All fired up and relaxed at the same time,” as one puts it.
Predictably, enough, they up the dose. But only after they reach more than double the 0.05% “deficit” does it go horribly wrong. No matter that it is a daft idea to depend on alcohol to do your job from the start, particularly if you look after kids.
But it is good, one might argue, that the film goes on to disproves its own crackpot theory in the tragic ending. Well, it does, sure, but [unapologetic spoiler] a few shots later alcohol is the catalyst of the final euphoric scene.
The film also does things like making Churchill’s notorious heavy drinking an unarguable endorsement of a liberating habit. It also fails to mention that Ernest Hemmingway’s alcohol drinking was life threatening for decades. Yada yada.
“Misuse of drugs must be infrequent and should not be glamorised or give detailed instruction,” is among the conditions of the UK’s 12A certificate, and films must not promote dangerous or anti-social behaviour.
There is a tragedy, sadness and a bit of sanitised puking, but these do not outweigh the impression left by the far longer sections in which we watch male role models experience a quasi-scientific miracle, reprised at the end.
In the closing scene Mikkelsen’s dour history teacher has a post-funeral pick-me-up enabling him to dance with the kids like it was 1999, before flinging himself fully-clothed off a jetty in a final alcohol-fuelled flourish.
There is a great film to be made about alcohol, about its real effects, dramas, humour, confusions and contradictions. This, sadly, is not it, and despite its many troubling flaws it seems likely to fill the niche for years to come. ■