In Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round, male midlife crisis is viewed through the prism of an empty bottle of alcohol. The Danish director’s captivating and resonant tragicomic drama revolves around an actual theory of the salubrious effects of liquor consumption on the mind and spirit and the effects this has on four friends faced with middle age and irrelevance.

The solidly performed movie is headlined by Mads Mikkelsen, who is dazzling as Martin. A history teacher at a school where his friends also work, Martin knows he has lost his mojo. Have I become boring, he asks his wife. He isn’t surprised by her reply.

The disaffected men are surrounded by exemplars of the uninhibited and vivacious youth that they left behind not so long ago. The Oscar-nominated Another Round is bookended by sequences of hard partying. One leads the men to embrace the dubious hypothesis that humans can handle two drinks a day – consumed in daylight hours. The other provides an ambiguous conclusion to the notion that self-esteem and vitality can be revived by hitting the bottle on a regular basis. The 116-minute movie is available on the BookMyShow Stream service.

Sturla Brandth Grovlen’s handheld camerawork adds an edge to the men’s increasingly risky adventures. It initially works out swimmingly for them. Football coach Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) regains a sense of purpose and encourages an intimidated boy to gain confidence. Psychology teacher Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) and music trainer Peter (Lars Ranthe) are similarly more driven than before. Are they alcoholics? Of course not, they tell themselves, they are in control. Besides, didn’t alcohol fuel Ernest Hemmingway produce brilliant prose?

The examination of male anxiety includes a sympathetic portrait of the only significant female character, Martin’s wife Anika (Maria Bonnevie). The screenplay, by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, skirts the potentially toxic fallout of frequent imbibing. Rather, Another Round seeks to find a middle ground between a risky proposition and its execution in the real world.

Despite empathy and affection for his fragile and relatable men, Vinterberg acknowledges their self-deception as well as the possibility that they might be on the road to ruin. For at least one of the friends, the liquor-as-elixir theory doesn’t quite work out as planned. The bottle lets out more than a wish-granting genie – it unleashes forces that are beyond his control. The solution: another round.

Another Round (2020).