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