I am a little perplexed about what to tell you about the Danish film, Another Round, which has been much praised by critics and within the film industry. I found it to be fascinating, provocative … but to be honest, having read a lot about the film, I feel like in some ways I was watching another movie.
Directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg (who has gotten an Oscar nomination for best director), Another Round focuses on a quartet of aging men, all teachers at a local high school, and all feeling that life has passed them by. They're half-dead inside, finding virtually everything about their personal and professional lives to be stale.
Then, they start discussing a theory by psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, who suggested that people who are able to maintain blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent will be more creative, relaxed and fulfilled. It is a theory they decide to test out, essentially working to maintain a light buzz from morning to night.
As one can imagine, in the beginning it works … work seems more fulfilling, teaching styles become more compelling, marriages become more romantic. But, of course, it doesn't stay that way.
The thing is, most of the reviews about Another Round seemed to emphasize its life affirming message, its portrait of men successfully recapturing some measure of youthful energy, and called it things like a "hymn to life."
But I didn't see it that way. As much as I admired the film, I found it to be profoundly depressing; scenes that others described as being embracing and energetic I found to be desperate and sad.
I'm not saying they're all wrong and I'm right. Regardless of how you see it, Another Round is worth watching, with a fabulous performance by Mads Mikkelsen at its core. I'll just be curious if anyone agrees with me.
Minari is a film, directed by Lee Isaac Chung, that portrays what happens to a family of Korean immigrants that, in 1983, moves from California to Arkansas, where they have bought a small farm where they hope to grow Korean vegetables to sell to specialty markets.
This is a film that shows a very American story … hard-working immigrants looking to capture a small share of the dream, which to them is a tangible benefit to being in America. The performances are strong, the direction sure, but Minari, to my mind, fulfills expectations without exceeding them. It is a modest piece of filmmaking, but it makes modesty a virtue.
My wine of the week: the 2015 Farmstrong Suisun Valley Field White, a blend of Grenache Blanc (41%), Albariño (35%), and Verdelho (24%) - it has a nice tropical balance to it, and it would be great with seafood. Or, just while sitting outside enjoying the warning weather.
That's it for this week. I hope you have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.
Stay safe. Be healthy.