by Bill Chambers To wrap up our TIFF coverage, some 'quick bites' in honour of the fallen streaming service, Quibi. Movies about alcoholism always make me want to drink, so maybe it's true that there's no such thing as an antiwar movie. Thomas Vinterberg's Another Round (***/****), to be fair, makes drinking inviting because it depicts it almost exclusively as a social activity, when few us have socialized in months. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Martin, a high-school teacher in the throes of a mid-life crisis that's jeopardizing his career and putting a strain on his marriage. After confiding his gloomy outlook to three of his colleagues--Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), and Peter (Lars Ranthe)--while out celebrating Nikolaj's 40th birthday, they get to talking about Norwegian philosopher Finn Skårderud, who allegedly believes that human beings would function better with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05%. Thus begins an experiment among the foursome to secretly maintain a constant state of tipsiness, which, lo, does yield some positive results, including the adorable runt of Tommy's soccer team, Specs, becoming champ for a day. The first half of Another Round (whose Danish title, Druk, means "binge-drinking") is a bit like watching X-Men discover their superpowers--but, y'know, it's booze, and the four men eventually can't resist drinking past the point of "ignition," leading to domestic strife and even tragedy. For all that, the film is more realistic than moralistic, a feature-length expansion of Reese Witherspoon's credo from James L. Brooks's How Do You Know: "Don't drink to feel better. Drink to feel even better." Mikkelsen is touchingly wistful in a role that's 180° removed from Hannibal Lecter but still counts on his innate combustibility, and the film engages in some hilarious internal debate over whether drinking is good or bad for politics.
Viggo Mortensen's writing and directing debut Falling (**/****) casts him as a married gay man whose conservative father, Willis (Henriksen), is in Los Angeles visiting him with an eye on relocating there. Dementia has eroded whatever inhibitions were keeping Willis from going the full Archie Bunker, and there is a nagging sense that Mortensen, who was reprimanded for using the n-word on the Green Book press tour, has conjured himself an avatar to exorcise all the slurs building up on the tip of his tongue. A bigger problem is that for as warmly as I feel towards Henriksen the actor, he might be too convincing here: there's no charisma behind Willis's bile. Editor Ronald Sanders's constant temporal shifts between past and present (an arguably cliched device showing the old man's slippery grip on time and reality) only clarify that he's staying true to the performance of Sverrir Gudnason as Willis the younger; a born dick, the character is a chore to watch. Still, Mortensen himself is affecting as a loving husband, father, and, however reluctantly, son, Marcel Zyskind's 'scope lensing is elegant, and nowhere else are you going to see David Cronenberg as Lance Henriksen's proctologist.
Finally, Spring Blossom (**½/****) is a shopworn tale reinvigorated to a point by the screenplay's author, director/star Suzanne Lindon, having been 15 when she wrote it. Now 20, Lindon plays high-school student Suzanne, who's utterly bored with people her own age and sits invisibly amongst her classmates, though her peers seem to accept or at least tolerate her as she sips silently on a grenadine and lemonade, tuning out their gossip. She's looking for someone more her speed, someone like Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), an actor with whom she becomes infatuated after spotting him outside a theatre. One day she works up the courage to offer him a light, and it's clear he has noticed back and that the attraction is mutual. What I found more intriguing than issues of propriety concerning their ensuing affair (she's 16 and he's 32)--which are all but sidestepped by the use of interpretive dance to portray any consummation between them--is that in doing things like reading the play he's in to feel closer to him, Suzanne is actually broadening her horizons in a substantial way. A lot of growing up is forcing yourself into different containers to see if you fit. What doesn't work are the scenes that linger on Raphaël at the theatre sans Suzanne, which ring peculiarly inauthentic for something written by the offspring of actors (Lindon's parents are French stars Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain), although there's a very relatable moment where Suzanne is cornered by an endlessly self-impressed set dresser, too unseasoned to gracefully extricate herself from the situation. In fact, it's in scenes on the fringes of the love story that Lindon shows the most promise as a filmmaker. Another Round - Programme: Special Presentations; Falling - Programme: Special Presentations; Spring Blossom- Programme: Discovery