Growing old with childhood friends is a uniquely defining experience of life, and is truly one of privilege for those who get to experience it. In Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round (2020), we see a group of such friends in their 40s who are tackling midlife crises, but together, having crossed over from youth to today in each other's presence. The dynamics of the group and their interpersonal bonds define the cinematic experience, which is an empowering ode to youth and friendships.
Set in a small town with a tight community, the film features four friends, each of whom is a teacher, but of a different subject. They have their own families and lives, but every now and then, they get together to mull over life. One such occasion is Nikolaj's birthday. The four meet up in a restaurant, and 'party'. After an uncomfortably honest admission about not liking his life, Martin introduces an intriguing concept. A Norwegian philosopher believes blood alcohol content is naturally 0.05% too low.
And that sets up the highly interesting film to come. Before that, we see how each is suffering either professionally or personally or on both fronts. There's of course the sense of gratitude and they do get that their lives could be worse. However, there's a general distaste for how their lives turned out, or how 'boring' they've become. This is what eventually prompts them to undertake the experiment of maintaining 0.05% blood alcohol at all times, by day-drinking. Thus begins a wild ride for these four friends.
The power of friendship is beautifully explored through the film. Despite the understanding that it may be a grey area, they're extremely supportive of each other through the undertaking. The comfortable warmth you feel on watching middle-aged friends goofing around, mixing cocktails and dancing together is indescribable. I honestly cannot exaggerate how empowered I felt on witnessing the manner in which they approached the experiment. It helps reconcile oneself with growing up beyond youth.
What spoke to me most, however, was the fact that they're not in each others' lives all the time. They are their distinct selves, with independent personal lives. Of course they stay in contact, help each other and confide in each other, but not all the time. You can stay in someone's life and be an integral part of it without necessarily being involved everywhere. Martin's marriage, for example was not for any of them to barge into to fix. Witnessing and comforting is often the essence of friendship.
As expected there were detrimental effects of getting carried away with the experiment, and this is probably my favourite bit of the film. Of course, they lose a friend, and, yes, they could possibly have done a better job of being there for them, but no one passes around blame. I think they appreciate the circumstantial necessity for their actions and understand it was unfortunately inevitable, even if they could have prevented it. Eventually, asking for help is just as important as offering it.
The closing scene sets this film apart. Friendship, between kids, teenagers, young adults, grownups, and even the aged, has been the subject of filmmaking for a long time. Yet this felt so unique. Not just because of the premise or the amazing way in which everything is handled. I think that even if it's an age-old story, there's a lot to take from it. The death of their friend doesn't change their dynamic, even if they have personally changed, and the dance celebrates life, maybe as an ode to his life.
The reason I'll always carry Another Round with me is because I'm haunted by the way things change in a split second and how quickly apparently immortal bonds can be severed. Another Round, in contrast, depicts that comfortable, warm kind of friendship that evolves and, more importantly, allows for space whenever necessary, but is somehow never lost, even in death.