Lacking depth and edge but benefiting from an enthralling lead performance, the Danish seriocomedy “Another Round” (streaming in Smith Rafael Film Center’s virtual cinema starting Friday) is a constantly engaging consideration, with a few dark tinges, of the pleasures and pitfalls of alcohol consumption.
It’s directed and cowritten by Thomas Vinterberg, the Dogme 95 cofounder whose credits include the ultra-darkly comic “The Celebration” and, more recently, 2012’s “The Hunt,” featuring Mads Mikkelsen. In “Another Round,” Vinterberg reunites with Mikkelsen, with both artists in lighter, tipsier mode.
After viewing tone-setting scenes featuring beer-binging teens and a lonelier form of drinking, we met Mikkelsen’s character, a bored middle-aged high-school history teacher named Martin.
In the classroom, Martin is so dull and detached that his students can’t take him seriously. At home, he’s similarly disconnected from his wife, Anika (Maria Bonnevie), and their two sons.
Martin spends lots of time with three buddies — fellow bored teachers Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Peter (Lars Ranthe).
At Nikolaj’s birthday celebration, the movie’s boozy premise launches. After drinking a variety of spirits, the men ponder Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skarderud’s belief that upping your blood alcohol level can make you more productive and vital. The next day, Martin, testing the theory, drinks some vodka and teaches a class.
Though his subject — Leaders who drink (Churchill, FDR) are superior to leaders who don’t (Hitler) — is unorthodox, Martin’s presentation is uncharacteristically fresh and lively.
His revived dynamism also improves his relationship with Anika.
Martin’s three pals, too, feel recharged.
Maintaining a state of drunkenness is dangerous, of course, and the picture darkens when the men decide to drink more alcohol and take their “experiment” to a higher level. They become destructive, obnoxious drunks.
Deep this movie isn’t.
While not without serious content — alcohol abuse, Denmark’s heavy drinking culture, middle-age disappointment — the film, which Vinterberg wrote with regular collaborator Tobias Lindholm, says nothing fresh or insightful about such subjects. The filmmakers generally present potentially wicked subject matter safely and predictably. A third-act death is unnecessary and feels lifted from a Hollywood formula.
At the same time, however, Vinterberg has made a likeable, warmhearted midlife-crisis tale that celebrates friendship and highlights the presence, glorious and disastrous, of alcohol in life.
Perversely amusing moments aren’t entirely lacking. At one point, Tommy advises a nervous high-school student to down some booze before taking an important exam. The outcome isn’t what you may think.
Also noteworthy is Vinterberg’s free-flowing depiction of the men’s inebriated camaraderie.
A montage featuring liquor-consuming world leaders — Churchill, Nixon, lots of Russians — is thematic fun, meanwhile.
Enriching the picture is Mikkelsen, whose dark streak complements Vinterberg’s sunny tones and who, without much to go on, creates a multi-shaded, fascinating, frequently funny protagonist filled with frustration, anger and misplaced vitality.
Most wonderful is the climactic dance into which Martin spontaneously erupts, with Mikkelsen electrifyingly blending exhilaration and sadness. It’s a daring and peak moment in this generally conventional but completely enjoyable film.
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Maria Bonnevie
Written by: Thomas Vinterberg, Tobias Lindholm
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
The city is Ramallah, whose modern, cosmopolitan landscape — parks, fast-food joints, sophisticated cafes — debunks media-generated concepts. The man is Musa Hadid, Ramallah’s hardworking, mustached mayor.
Director David Osit shot the documentary in 2017, 50 years after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began.
We follow Hadid as he attends meetings and makes public appearances to address topics ranging from street paving and trash disposal to the construction of a grand fountain and the lighting of Ramallah’s Christmas tree. (One-fourth of Ramallah’s residents, Hadid included, are Christians.) In an amusing scene, Hadid, meeting with advertising experts, can’t quite grasp the concept of “branding.”
Realities of the occupation complicate Hadid’s daily grind, however.
Sewage problems have long plagued Ramallah, but Israeli authorities have neglected to fix them, Hadid notes, for example.
His face registers particular dismay after Donald Trump decides to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s action triggers an eruption of violent protests in Ramallah, with Israeli soldiers demonstrating their might with bullets and tear gas. At one point, Hadid is instructed to stay away from the window so that bullets won’t hit him— advice he follows with a calmness that suggests such scenarios are common.
Osit has described the film as a collaboration between himself and Hadid. It isn’t a critical character portrait.
But as Osit shows Hadid working to make Ramallah a place its people can take pride in, the mayor becomes an extraordinary documentary subject and we want to thank Osit for introducing us to Hadid and taking us inside his city.
With: Musa Hadid
Directed by: David Osit
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes