Midsommar sees Ari Aster flexing his creative muscles, as he takes us, and his damaged couple, on another trip into an unsettling experience dealing with grief.
Dani and Christian are a couple at the end of their rope. They both know it, they both see it coming, but nobody seems to be able to pull the trigger. When a tragedy in Dani’s life puts her on a path to crash a PHD to be boy’s party to Sweden, the whole crew gets WAY more than the anthropological experience they were hoping for.
Midsommar is being sold as a horror movie, but is more of a film filled with horrific things. There is gory imagery, there are weird rituals, there are bizarre and shocking developments; but the people of this sweedish village would probably appreciate this film if it was a documentary directed by Ari Aster. It is a beautiful and loving portrait of this festival, even when told through the eyes of the bewildered and drugged outsiders. Aster paints every frame with expert craftsmanship and everyone on his team delivers top notch work. The Haxan Cloak’s score often gives the film proceedings a beautiful soundtrack that almost feels inviting, Pawel Pogorzelski’s camera does wonders and never wastes an inch of the frame, while the Design team creates an amazing village and brilliant costumes all the way to the end.
It looks amazing, it creates a fully realized world, but Midsommar works because Aster’s script guides us through all of this with confidence, unflinchingly diving us deeper into the ritual. The newcomers might be a bit too passive to the experience around them, but we have to get to the end somehow. Dani’s trajectory and all of the special tea helps explain all of that away, but Aster sucks you in and makes you want to know what comes next. Plus, the script is really funny. Even into the finale, Aster is juggling laughs and unsettling behavior, it’s a welcome turn after the grim nature of his first feature.
The cast is led by Florence Pugh, who stars as Dani, and she brings all the weight needed for the part. She gets to dive into the world while her boyfriend Christian, Jack Reynor, gets to be more of the audience surrogate to all of the what the fuckery. Pugh is excellent as she tries to be the “good” girlfriend, passing along dirty looks as she knows her boyfriend sucks, with Reynor playing the sap to near perfection. You just have to laugh at this schmuck, and Reynor dives into the part. Will Poulter provides much of the films comic relief, dropping one liners throughout the movie and making the more humorous observations of their experience. William Jackson Harper probably wishes he got to play the part a little less like Chidi. Vilhelm Blomgren is also essential to the film, as he sets the happy and welcoming tone of the Sweedish members of our film.
Midsommar is an experience to be had if you are ready for the weird. Aster has avoided the sophomore slump and proven that he is one of the sharpest directors in the business after two films. There aren’t many films out there like Midsommar, and while it might not be the frightfest some are hoping for, it is an original take on grief and shitty relationships; with an insane cult ceremony thrown in for good measure. More please, Mr. Aster.