STARRING: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe, Liv Mjönes, Anna Åström, Isabelle Grill, Rebecka Johnston and Hampus Hallberg
A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition.
Dani and Christian are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village.
Midsommar is Ari Aster’s followup to 2018 horror film Hereditary. The film focuses on the failing relationship between young American couple Dani and Christian and when Christian seems set to call an end to it, family tragedy strikes Dani and keeps their relationship intact. While Dani grieves her loss, Christian and his friends plan on taking a trip to Sweden for a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote village. Inviting Dani along in the hopes that she backs out, Dani actually joins the trip and when the festival initially appears as a carefree summer holiday, it soon takes a more sinister turn and the group try to learn of the villagers culture and plans for the festival.
Midsommar is not a horror film in the vein of the traditional jump scares and relying on the night to increase the tension, it deliberately focuses on the sinister undertones of the festival during the light of day, that is constant and you start to lose the sense of time during daylight and while the night sometimes hides the potential threat around the corner, here there’s nowhere to hide. The cinematography from Pawel Pogorzelski is terrific here, it’s arguably the most beautifully shot film you’ll see this year. There’s some really good shots throughout the film that will stay with you, for me in particular is a shot in which Dani is being ‘consoled’ by Christian in the most half-hearted way possible as he stares off into the distance. It’s the way that the scene goes for so long and slowly zooms in on the two of them that makes it really effective and their damaged relationship is showcased throughout the course of the film, as well as the themes of grief, isolation and co-dependency. Florence Pugh is giving the most to work with here out of the case considering the audience gets to know her characters backstory and she gives a terrific performance as Dani, as does Jack Reynor as Christian. The characters may appear justified on their actions from a viewers perspective, Dani can be viewed as too dependent on Christian to help handle her problems before tragedy strikes, and Christian can be viewed as too indifferent and insensitive to Dani’s grief during the course of their trip in Sweden and Pugh/Reynor handle this very well, with Reynor portraying a character that many people will be all too familiar with in how he manipulates himself into certain positions for his own benefit (a sub-plot that involves William Jackson Harper’s Josh).
I admire Ari Aster for making a film that doesn’t play itself into the more familiar tropes and jump scares that audiences are accustomed too with the horror genre, but as well acted and beautifully shot as the film is, it all feels original in that vein but yet the film feels oddly predictable at the same time. Certain scenes will play out the way that you think they will and there’s some pretty gruesome moments here that Aster doesn’t shy away from and that might be off-putting for some. The main issue however will be the films runtime, coming in at a deliberately, just under, slow-paced two and a half hours. Some people enjoyed the slow-paced nature of the film as they felt that it get under their skin, but for me once we reached the middle portion of the middle act of the film, I could definitely feel the runtime and became more frustrated with character actions and felt cold to what was unfolding on screen rather than feeling creeped out.
Midsommar showcases Ari Aster as a talented filmmaker and Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematography is a sight to behold, the film’s story didn’t really do anything for me other than feel the films runtime, which we can argue till the end of time whether or not the film outstays its welcome. Still, Florence Pugh’s performance is what keeps you invested here and with Fighting With My Family earlier in the year, 2019 is arguably her year. 5/10