Early on in Another Round, there's a lovely sequence depicting a lake race. From the looks of it, the race feels like an annual event, a tradition amongst the participating youngsters. Teenagers are drinking, partying, and YOLO-ing! What starts as a lake race shifts to the interiors of a tube train. Not only does this entire scene marvellously portray the drinking culture within the Danish youth, but it also sets an impeccable contrast to the lives of the adults we're soon going to get introduced to. And while the story is set in Copenhagen, the emotions couldn't be more universal. It's not surprising, then, that the film won the Oscar for Best International Feature Film this year.
Martin, Tommy, Nikolaj and Peter are four high school teachers who, much like many middle-aged adults, find themselves stuck in boring and stale lives. Especially Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), an ex-ballet dancer who finds his existence inconsequential. His students find him incompetent, while his family finds it hard to communicate with him. At one point, Martin, who's supremely concerned about his life and his sense of self, even asks his wife if he has become boring. His wife, Anika (Maria Bonnevie), admits that he isn't the same person she met when they were young.
Another Round beautifully explores the anxiety and bleakness that individuals go through when they lose control. In an interaction with his students, Martin confesses that the world is never what you expect. While he says it rather casually with an almost poker face, the impact of the dialogue is powerful. Here's a man who's clearly disappointed with the state of things, saddened by what his life has become. He's going through life without being awake to it. But was Martin always this man, or did adulthood and the burden of responsibilities land him here? Did life not turn out how he'd expected as a young adult? Is he still holding on to unrequited dreams and aspirations? His sadness and even his indifference to life at times are evident, and you can't help but empathise.
However, things take a sharp turn when one of the friends recommends that they experiment with a theory recommended by Finn Skårderud. According to the theory, keeping your blood alcohol content, or BAC. at 0.05 makes individuals more creative and calm. And while they're visibly apprehensive about the idea in the beginning, the four friends ultimately succumb to the thought and go ahead to inspect the eccentric hypothesis. Kudos to cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen for capturing these sequences adeptly. The montages of intoxicated politicians significant in world history have also been juxtaposed masterfully in the narrative by editors Anne Østerud and Janus Billeskov Jansen.
There's also a subplot exploring the nitty-gritties of marriage. What happens to a relationship when two people get married super-young? Is infidelity only physical, and is it the end-all of a relationship? And can a relationship that's severely broken be revived? Director Thomas Vinterberg has handled these themes with utmost care and nuance.
What's winsome about Another Round is that it normalises adults making mistakes. Much like their teenage counterparts, grown-ups are also browsing their way through life. They are equally broken and fighting their own demons. And all they need is some support and understanding from the ones dearest to them.
At the heart of this soul-satisfying movie is the notion of acceptance. As people, we need to accept that we're errant in order to love others and the precious gift that is life. We'll make mistakes. We'll have days when we wouldn't want to leave our comfort zone. We'll question our own judgements. We'll get disheartened and feel hopeless. But we'll survive. We'll accept our shortcomings. We'll indulge in self-care and empathise with our loved ones. We'll regain control. All we need to do is to wake up to life and celebrate it by honouring the here and now!