- Emma Simmonds
- 14 October 2020
LFF 2020: Mads Mikkelsen and Thomas Vinterberg reunite to stunning effect in this booze-fuelled dramedy
A group of blokes, old enough to know better, decide to liven things up with alcohol, as they opt to spend their working hours just a little bit drunk, before matters get out of hand. This delicious premise is rendered all the more outrageous and intriguing when you learn that the men in question are high school teachers.
It's an experiment that's, by turns, extremely silly, deeply problematic and deadly serious in an immaculately executed film from Denmark's Thomas Vinterberg. The director of Festen and The Hunt views these midlife crises through a sympathetic, often comparably sozzled lens, taking us on a merry little dance through sad, bored, overwhelmed, or lonely lives.
Mads Mikkelsen – who collaborated with Vinterberg so unforgettably on The Hunt – makes for a fascinating focal point as depressed history teacher Martin, who is a shadow of his former self and whose wife Trine (Maria Bonnevie) seems to be slipping away. He seizes upon a fairly throwaway comment from pal Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) about the life-changing potential of maintaining a moderate blood alcohol content and, putting it into practice, gives him the boost he needs to inspire his students and lift him out of his funk. His colleagues, which also include Lars Ranthe's music teacher Peter and Thomas Bo Larsen's PE teacher Tommy, experience similar effects, but the friends don't know when to stop.
It's novel to find a film that's so concerned with the science and psychology of alcohol consumption and the scenes where the men attempt a drunken supermarket shop, or where one of them over-enthusiastically coaches a young football team are just flat-out hilarious. Aided by astonishing work from Mikkelsen, Vinterberg gets close enough to capture every flicker of emotion, showing the way depression can diminish a person and the short-term benefits of medicating away one's misery.
Despite the screamingly obvious folly of what these men get up to, Vinterberg eschews judgement. They will learn their lesson, you can be in no doubt, but things are not that simple in a satisfyingly knotty portrait of aging and addiction. It'll put you through the wringer at times, but ends on such an exhilaratingly joyous note that it may well have you skipping out of the cinema.
Screening on Wed 14, Thu 15, Sat 17 and Sun 18 Oct as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020. In cinemas from Fri 27 Nov.