Movie Review: ‘Midsommar,’ Starring; Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor
Midsommar is the second film by writer/director Ari Aster, after his debut last year with the incredibly haunting Hereditary. The latter was one of my favorite films of last year (review) so naturally, when it was revealed that Aster was already looking to release his sophomore film in 2019, I was already incredibly intrigued. Hereditary left me mesmerized by not only a gripping performance by Toni Collette, but also from the film’s ability to completely and utterly unnerve its audience with its haunting atmosphere and imagery. Could Aster do it again, and this time with a film that looks like it’s going to take place mostly, if not entirely, during the day?
The answer is mostly yes, he sure can.
Midsommar follows Florence Pugh as Dani, a twenty-something who’s dealing with an exorbitant amount of grief (much like Collette in Hereditary) and struggling with holding onto a relationship with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), that’s very clearly on it’s last leg. In an effort to help take her mind off of things and maybe mend their broken relationship, she joins in on a trip to Sweden that Christian and his guy friends are planning to celebrate the midsummer festival. But as you might expect, things aren’t entirely what they seem and the film begins to unravel into something incredibly unnerving and very hard to forget.
It doesn’t take long for the film’s tension to begin to rise. Before we even get to the title card, Aster begins his slow burn with a haunting score consisting of a lady singing a Swedish chant as we view different Scandanavian landscapes. After being introduced to Dani and the tragedy she endured, we get the title card and it’s off to Sweden we go.
The difference between Hereditary and Midsommar is night and day, and I mean that in a literal sense. While the former was dark and ominous aesthetically, this film tackles the same tone but has an extra obstacle of doing so in broad daylight in nearly it’s entire 140 minute run time and it doesn’t hinder Aster’s abilities whatsoever. The film is beautifully shot and edited, and a keen eye will pick up little bread crumbs sprinkled throughout foreshadowing what’s going to transpire. Initially, post viewing I thought to myself I may not rewatch this anytime soon (the opposite of how I felt about Hereditary), but the more I thought about it and discussed with peers, the more eager I am to give it another view.
The tension builds perhaps too slowly, but leads to an incredibly unsettling final act. At times, I had my hands in all sorts of different positions trying to process what was transpiring on screen and what it means for our characters. The imagery and accompanying music demand the viewer’s full attention and it will not fail in doing so. You will gasp. You will groan. You will want to look away, but you won’t be able to. The sense of dread that you will feel will continue to elevate while Aster only gives you moments to breathe again.
When the initial trailer dropped for Midsommar, I was a little hesitant. Some line delivery from Will Poulter seemed way too forcefully delivered and set some red flags. However, having seen the movie and understand the context in which they’re said easily dismissed that thought. Also in the supporting cast is William Jackson Harper whom you may know as Chidi from NBC’s The Good Place, in which I chuckled when he began questioning the ethics in this film.
I don’t think I was as satisfied by Midsommar’s conclusion as I was with Hereditary, but perhaps another viewing would change my mind. I’m interested to see how both films hold up over time and still very much interested in any project Ari Aster will be developing in the future. The man is two for two in my book.