Midsommar (2019)


It was around this time last year when I finally decided to watch Ari Aster's first feature, Hereditary, and, there really is no other way to put it, my mind was blown by the brilliancy of it and Aster's masterful use of the horror genre to portray a family dealing with grief and loss. Needless to say Aster's second feature, Midsommar, was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. Thankfully, the filmmaker yet again delivers as Midsommar is a terrific cult film that manages to be creepy and horrifying but also funny and very entertaining throughout.

Dani (Florence Pugh) is a mess as she has to deal with anxiety and her sister, Terri (Klaudia Csányi), who is constantly threatening suicide. When her sister stops responding to her messages, Dani is obviously worries and unloads on her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). He's not the most supportive of boyfriends though; he's actually trying to find the courage to break up with her, especially now that he has a trip to Sweden planned with his friends, Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), to attend a summer festival, and bringing a girlfriend along would definitely mess with their plans.

When Dani's sister commits suicide, killing their parents in the process, Dani is wrecked. Christian obviously can't break up with her now, unless he wants to be the biggest asshole in the universe, but it's not until Dani finds out about the trip at a party that Christian asks her to go with him, a hundred per cent positive she won't actually go.

But she does and, once the group arrives, they slowly realize that nothing is as it seems.

The story is very straightforward and rather predictable as we are shown, either through a "love story" vignette or murals, what is going to happen. While this would have been an issue in most films, especially horrors, it's one of Midsommar's strengths thanks to Aster's superb skills. He shows us what is going to happen, and gives us time to process it and get shocked by it, and yet when the predicted events eventually take place they still come as a shock, an even greater shock than it was before. We, the audience, are disgusted and disturbed by what we are seeing and yet, like its American characters, we cannot help but keep watching. 

The other aspect of the story that differentiates Midsommar from your mainstream horror film is its subtext. While life, death, nature, deity and fertility are the most obvious themes, relationships are the film's core. Not any relationship but the unhealthy, toxic kind — not in a violent way though. The relationships Aster tackles in the film are those who have no reason to exist but continue to exist and "develop" because they are too coward to break up — Dani needs a lot of emotional support, she knows Christian is not able to give her the support she needs and yet she stays with him. Christian, on the other hand, is fed up with her and wants to break up with her but can't work up the courage to do so.

Ari Aster does not shy away from emotions, pain and human suffering. Not only this makes the film even more painful to watch, but it also makes it feel real, hence scarier, as he is able to make you feel the same pain, horror, despair, suffering and confusion the characters feel. Whether you like them or not, all the characters are believable and, thanks to the film's slow pace that allows us to get to know Dani, we cannot help but root for her and be concerned for her safety, both physical and emotional.

Florence Pugh's powerful performance as Dani sure doesn't hurt the film. She delivers the character's pain, anguish and vulnerability to perfection, and genuinely looks horrified and terrified by what her character is going through. She also is the heart of the film, the one keeping us, the audience, emotionally invested in the film for its entirety. The supporting cast also gives great performances, Vilhelm Blomgren as the creepy, laid-back Swedish friend being the standout for me.

The visuals are another aspect of Midsommar that cannot be overlooked. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking — I don't remember ever seeing a film so gory and shocking and yet so beautiful at the same time —, the visual hallucinations the characters experience on their trip are beyond hypnotizing, and the attention to details is remarkable. And of course, the setting. Unlike your typical horror film, Aster's mainly takes place in the daylight. This is a total game-changer as it makes the creepy, disturbing things happening even more disturbing and upsetting because we lose that feeling of safety we have during the day, that idea, that illusion that nothing bad can happen unless we are surrounded by darkness.

Midsommar does have a flaw though. Just like in his first feature, Aster is able to establish an eerie, creepy atmosphere throughout the film's entire running time, but there still are some moments, after the hour and a half mark, that feel dragged and a bit boring.

12 comments :

  1. Great review! This is a movie I'm glad I saw, but one that I'll likely never watch again.

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    1. Thank you! I, on the other hand, really feel like rewatching it soon.

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  2. I definitely want to see this but I still haven't seen Hereditary which I hope to do sometime this month.

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    1. Well, I hope you get to see them both and love them as much as I did.

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  3. I'm glad you liked this! The only thing I wish he would've changed is maybe show what happened to her friends as they slowly disappeared. Their bodies just reappearing were a bit anticlimatic, I think they could've added a bit of gore there, but it was a minor complaint.

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    1. I didn't give that much thought but I actually liked it better this way.

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  4. I'm so glad you liked it! Ari Aster has become one of my favourite directors. I don't think I'll ever forget watching Hereditary for the first time, and I can't wait to see what he does next.
    I still need to see the extended cut of Midsommar!

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    1. I haven't seen that one either. Maybe in the future, when I'm done with all the Breaking Bad rewatch and horror films catch up.

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  5. Great review! I'm so glad you liked the movie! Yeah it was a bit long, especially the director's cut but they built the atmosphere so well in that. I hope ASter's next movie is gonna be a horror film too

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    1. Me too! I can't wait to see what he does next.

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  6. I haven`t seen 'Midsommar' yet but with regards to 'Hereditary' i thought that movie belonged to Judy Collins because of the quite superb use of her magical and charming 1967 renditioning of the truly great song 'Both Sides Now' which accompanied the end titles sequence so magnificently. The movie itself was ludicrously over-rated apart from the last 10 minutes of course when it became a bizarre and spellbinding combination of 'The Exorcist' and '2001: A Space Odyssey' and there-by essentially the stuff of cinematic legend but it took so long getting there!.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear Hereditary didn't work very well for you.

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