There’s a sad story behind the making of this film. Inspired by director Thomas Vinterberg’s daughter Ida, who was also due to star until she passed away just as filming began. He’d be forgiven in shelving the whole idea, but instead tweaked it and dedicated it to her. I really want to love this. Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a teacher, a bored one. As are his fellow teachers. It goes a bit beyond boredom for Martin though, he’s called out by his students and their parents for not being engaged enough. He’s in crisis, “lacking joy”, until one of his colleagues shares a theory about unlocking the minds full potential… with alcohol. To be honest I’m going to call it here. It’s not alcohol that helps Martin, it’s his friends. They’re solid. They care. Sure they’re daft, but there’s real compassion amongst them. It also helps that they collectively decide to test the alcohol theory. The theory being that the body is slightly alcohol deficient and that by topping it up a little and maintaining it, you’ll be happier, more confident, productive, maybe even enlightened. What could possibly go wrong? Mikkelsen is very easy to watch. They all are really, but he’s the focus and he holds it brilliantly. It does have a sparse tone, there’s not much backstory or any excess at all. More a snapshot of where we find Martin in his life. Martin blazes the path as the experiment becomes more… ambitious. I think there’s a lot of Martin’s out there. It’s not really a story about alcohol, but of being lost. Lives loosing their sense of purpose. Denmark apparently has a drinking culture, especially amongst the youth. Surely no more than England, but who knows. I don’t and it’s not important, but the school kids respond to the more flamboyant teaching styles. It’s uplifting stuff. An infectious energy permeates the screen. Especially when the needle drops on Cissy Strut in a gorgeous Scandinavian apartment and the dancing begins. Martin has a darkness in him though. He knows his limits, but with the others somewhat carelessly pushing on in the name of science. He finds the line blurring. They all do. It’s raw and honest, with some very difficult themes, but Vinterberg navigates them all well. I’m not sure it’s a film I can really love, but I do like it, a lot.