What would Old School look like if made by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg? Well, it would include a lot of drinking, a good deal of vomiting, maybe even a dance number or two. But unlike a non-stop gross-out vehicle starring Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, you get a deeply meditative statement about being male and suffering from middle-age stagnation.

In Another Round, a quartet of high school teachers decide to take part in a social experiment. According to Norwegian psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, people are born with a deficit in their blood alcohol level and by replenishing it, one would feel more relaxed and, ultimately, more creative. What happens if one maintains a blood alcohol level of 0.05 all day long?

A lot, if you ask the four men who decide to kickstart their lives again by getting shit-faced. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), the history teacher, is living life on cruise control. He and his wife are on the rocks and his students and their parents stage an intervention because he’s so checked out as an educator. Meanwhile, the physical education teacher, Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), is living a lonely life since his wife has left him. Rounding the group are the music teacher, Peter (Lars Ranthe), and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), the psychology teacher who proposes the idea during his fortieth birthday celebration.

The men start slowly, taking swigs of alcohol before class while hiding in the bathroom and pouring a little vodka into their coffee. Martin uses a breathalyzer to make sure he is maintaining a BAC level of 0.05 all day long. And lo and behold, things begin looking up for these guys. Martin’s students respect him again as he becomes more dynamic in the classroom. Things even improve on the home front as his wife takes interest in him again.

Mikkelsen, who also worked with Vinterberg in The Hunt, is the director’s secret weapon. Easily one of the best actors working today, Mikkelsen plays Martin as a man who has forgotten joy. He instills the role with a quiet sadness, one that undercuts some of the film’s sillier moments. Martin is suffering, but the wall he has put up to block his sorrow has made things even more difficult for him.

It doesn’t take a psychology professor to know that this little experiment will likely have dire ramifications. Soon, the men decide to push past the 0.05 barrier, transforming into complete souses. Jobs and marriages are in complete jeopardy. However, while Vinterberg might be warning us that too much alcohol is bad for one’s health, Another Round certainly is no PSA against drinking. In fact, the verdict is much murkier than that. Besides, alcohol does calm us down and allow us to be more creative. So, why not practice moderation, right?

Vinterberg and his cast do not ignore some hard truths about the dissolution of the middle-aged. Sadness lurks behind the laughs and even though most of the characters pull through the experiment with everything intact, not everyone manages to escape unscathed. Another Round, though depressing at times, is far from a total downer. Capped by a coda of pure ecstatic, drunken joy, Another Round chips away at the plaque of stagnation that often comes with middle-age complacency and takes us to a place where we might have never arrived without a little push from the bottle.

Another Round chips away at the plaque of stagnation that often comes with middle-age complacency and takes us to a place where we might have never arrived without a little push from the bottle.
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