Title – Midsommar (2019)
Director – Ari Aster (Hereditary)
Cast – Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren
Plot – Dani (Pugh) and her boyfriend Christian (Reynor) take a seemingly idyllic trip to Sweden that takes a turn for the nefarious when they participate in a small rural town’s ritualistic summer festival.
“So we just going to ignore the bear then?”
Review by Eddie on 12/08/2019
A strange beast of a film that’s hard to pin down and even harder to review, Ari Aster’s follow-up to his brilliant classic in waiting Hereditary is at times an equally impressive psychological and visceral horror but also one that struggles in parts to overcome its self-indulgent run-time, collection of unlikeable characters and a feeling that the slow build up isn’t quite worth it come the nothing short of bizarre final portion.
For me it was around the 90 minute mark of the films 140 minute run-time that I couldn’t help but shake the feeling Midsommar could’ve done with a healthy edit.
From an incredibly effective opening hour that perfectly establishes a sense of fear and ominous threat thanks to a hard-hitting pre-credits segment, some stylistically outstanding directing by Aster (never has a shot of a car driving along a highway been so engaging) and a captivating turn from rising star Florence Pugh who makes the very difficult character of Dani work thanks to her commanding presence, Midsommar does so much right but as things progress further and further into Aster’s uncomfortable examination of grief, mental illness, folk music and cultism, Midsommar at times flat out stalls to a halt with murky character decisions and repetitive sequences that culminate in a visually arresting and shocking climax that sadly manages to tie things up satisfactory, not exemplary.
Hereditary will always be a two-edged sword for Aster, much like other filmmakers before him that have announced themselves with full-fledged debuts, as the directors products will now always come with a certain expectation of quality and while technically Midsommar is a masterpiece of sound design, production quality and performance management, it’s hopefully a learning experience for Aster to remain on course and not get side-tracked with too much of a good thing.
There are a lot of these good things in this trippy, at times nerve-wracking and sometimes wince inducing holiday to the woods of Sweden as we follow the grieving and anxiety ridden Dani and her group of “friends” that includes Jack (letting it all hang out) Reynor’s self-indulgent boyfriend Christian, Will Poulter’s girl obsessed comic relief Mark, Vilhelm Blomgren’s unnerving Swedish national Pelle and William Jackson Harper’s thesis driven Josh, who discover quite quickly that secluded European festival’s may not be the smartest of holiday destinations.
From the moment our group touch down in the fairy tale like fields of Pelle’s home village and step through into what feels like another world entirely, Aster sets the scene for one of the most unique horror settings of recent memory, that is made all the more off-putting by the choice to film most of Midsommar entirely in the daytime sun, creating a vibe and feeling that is hard to put down in words but one that allows viewers to be taken away from reality and embraced by Aster’s warped and singular vision.
There are scenes here that viewers will not soon forget, moments that genuinely send your body into a shocked feeling of catharsis and further establish Aster as a director whose way with storytelling can create mood and atmosphere that would match it with the very best of Hollywood’s current crop of auteurs.
Without question one of the year’s most visually arresting and shocking big screen experiences, there’s many reason why one should ensure they catch Midsommar in the surrounds of a cinema, with willing audience members like mine that winced, laughed (both from humour and pure disbelief) and let jaws drop in unison and while it’s a shame Aster takes us to a conclusion that doesn’t feel entirely right, its undoubtedly that we are still seeing the beginnings of one of the industry’s brightest and uncompromising talents who has so much more still to give.
Final Say –
Filled with moments of pure unadulterated cinematic brilliance, an unforgettable world inhabited by white robed locals and anchored a fiercely powerful Florence Pugh performance, Midsommar is a trip unlike any other that suffers from a raft of unlikeable characters, lack of scares, an overly generous running time and a curiously disappointing finale. Close to being something truly special, Midsommar may not reach all its lofty goals but remains the horror film to beat in 2019.
4 sacred logs out of 5
In my piece, I said that Hereditary is the better movie but Midsommar may lend itself to more rewatchability. Doesn’t have the plot through line in my opinion that his debut has but who knows, maybe more stuff would be picked up upon another rewatch. And I like that while he’s kept a theme or two, he’s made two distinct movies that bode well for his future. And probably still the most visually impressive movie I’ve seen all year.
Oh man visually this was just wow, simply amazing and Aster’s camera choices and ability to set up a mood is second to none.
There was just something slightly amiss for me here, even though so much of it was so good, I just cant escape the feeling its too long, normally that is not a problem for me but particularly the last 30 minutes lost a lot of steam in my mind.
I agree, too long. Crazy thing is, the first cut was roughly 3:30! I wonder if maybe for his next movie, a co-writer could do wonders.
Yeh I have heard rumors that he wants to release the directors cut! I honestly don’t know what else he could’ve shown.
Yep a co-writer might be great! I think his way with words and characters is great, but just keep things moving when there is no need to linger.
I’ve considered watching this, but was unsure. I’ve never seen Hereditary. Would you recommend that? I still might watch Midsommar when it’s released outside of the cinemas. Movies that are over 2h (+pre-movie trailers etc) are way too long for me to sit in for.
I couldn’t recommend Hereditary more highly. Not only as a horror, but as a family drama and observation of grief and loss it works incredibly well to. I honestly believe Aster is the next big thing directing wise, his a true talent.
I might have to watch it then. Thanks for the recommendation.
Hopefully you enjoy! It’s heavy but a real cinematic treat.
I watched Hereditary over the weekend. It had some good moments. There were plenty of things that could have gone somewhere, but never did. I expected so much more. A lot of things were just there for the “horror” part, but never really explained. Disappointing.
Thanks for letting me know Floating! I am a big fan but I know its not a film for everyone. I think directing wise it’s one of the most assured debuts in some time.
I enjoyed the film up to a point, stopped enjoying it, and then continued enjoying it right after. I’m sure you can guess at which scene my engagement was, well, disengaged. There’s plenty to be bothered about THAT scene near the end that has little to do with the plot and more to do with the mere act of putting actors in such a position. Of course, Jack Reynor actually demanded he perform the scene in that fashion as a means of equality, although I don’t believe equality calls to fight fire with fire. It’s more about putting out the fire, really.
In avoiding spoilers, hopefully, that vague paragraph isn’t lost if you read it. lol.
But on the topic of his future career, [MINOR IMPLIED SPOILERS FOR MULTIPLE ARI ASTER PROJECTS]
I’m curious if he’ll step away from characters inevitably ending up in situations where they lose agency. Munchausen is a short film that ends with the agency stripped from its characters. Hereditary is entirely about the characters having no agency, and Midsommar ends without agency.
It makes me wonder about Ari Aster’s worldview, let alone where his next film will go. Doesn’t matter the setting, if he ends the film without agency again, he’ll be a one-trick pony as far as I’m concerned. A shame, too. I would argue he’s a hugely important director right now with the willingness to talk taboo (shivers as I remember Strange Thing About the Johnsons, lol)
Some great thoughts mate! I am so excited for where the future lays for Aster as he feels like one of the most genuinely exciting talents to come along in some time.
There are some directional moments in Midsommar that are just mind blowingly good.
I feel the sentiment for this film as its one I loved, disliked, got bored in and was shocked by in almost equal measure but the craft and originality on show really stuck with me.
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I couldn’t even Hereditary because I was just plain scared in everything.
Not that I didn’t appreciate what was happening, i could see how things were panned out, I just couldn’t enjoy it.
My partner will love this movie, she tried to make me watch Hereditary
I would say Midsommar isn’t even really a horror in many ways mate, no jump scares or anything. If anything its a horror about mental illness and breakups, but not a jump out of your seat type deal.
Yeah I don’t think I was scared in Hereditary because of the jump scares, it was the slow build up and over all acting which freaked me out.
Well that may be the case again here haha 🙂
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