MIDSOMMAR (5 out of 5) Directed and Written by Ari Aster; Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, and Will Poulter; Rated R for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language; Running time 140 minutes; In wide release July 3, 2019.
Midsommar, currently marketed as a horror movie from the same mind that created Hereditary, is not exactly a horror movie. While it has horror elements like gore and general uneasiness, Midsommar fits more in the romantic drama genre. Romantic in that it follows couple Dani and Christian (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) through the trials of their relationship after Dani faces a devastating loss. Dramatic in that their relationship is already strained and we watch as this couple tries to force their relationship to work, despite an obvious lack of care.
Christian is invited on a thesis trip to a small, remote village in Sweden and he invites Dani to join in, trying to avoid hurting her feelings by not including her. The group arrives just in time to participate in a festival that only occurs every 90 years. Things, of course, spiral out of control in a hallucinogenic, cultish, and surprisingly laid-out series of events. The advantage lies with the village, as the outsiders justify each weird moment as a cultural difference and they are here to experience it in the name of anthropology.
Every scene and every action is intentional. No second, shot, or movement is wasted. Artwork based on real art found in old Swedish farmhouses quite literally paint the picture of what is to come. Throwaway comments about what the villagers do turn into pivotal moments for the group. Midsommar has no surprises–if you know where to look. Hallucinogens are a main feature, and while typically this trope winds up being lazy, director Ari Aster uses this to an advantage in pairing it with devastating feelings. The effects of grief and drugs are everywhere, constant, and relentless. We would love to feel normal for even just a minute, but that’s not the way of the world.
Two themes of loss weave themselves through the plot: familial and romantic. The immediate loss of a loved one and the lasting effects are painted in every scene. Some days are better than others, but the feelings are always there and always clawing. If you have been through a breakup, good or bad, Midsommar will resonate too. It’s slow simmer grief. One or both persons realize they want out and have the time to process the stages of grief while the other still exists.
Florence Pugh takes us through this journey with incredible talent. Dani grows from a codependent girlfriend to a fully realized May Queen. The transition into self-fulfillment for Dani is slow but eventually welcomed. We watch as she tries to keep her shit together in everyday scenarios, but needs to flee to be by herself to collect her breakdown, a very American way of existing. By being in this village, she learns she’s not alone and to let people share in her pain and experience the feelings with her–help her carry the burden.
If you’re a fan of cinematic storytelling, Midsommar is a film that should viewed repeatedly. It is a film waiting to be dissected and analyzed. Every viewer will come away with different feelings, whether they be annoyance, adoration, or apathy, but you will feel something.