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Midsommar (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 1, 2020



Starring Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Liv Mjönes, Anna Åström, Julia Ragnarsson, Isabelle Grill, Louise Peterhoff, Archie Madekwe, Björn Andrésen, Henrik Norlén, Gunnell Fred, Anki Larsson, Vilhelm Blomgren, Ellora Torchia, Austin R. Grant, Johan Matton, Rebecka Johnston, Levente Puczkó-Smith and Mats Blomgren.

Screenplay by Ari Aster.

Directed by Ari Aster.

Distributed by A24. 145 minutes. Rated R.

I’m reluctant to give a review of Midsommar. The people that I have warned since watching the film a week ago have fallen into two categories. Those disinterested in horror films nod, and agree, this is not the film to venture into the horror genre. They thank me for the warning and don’t think about it again.

The other category of friends, those who enjoy horror films, get a twinkle in their eyes when I mention phrases like “horrifyingly graphic” and “nightmare inducing.” They thank me for my frank analysis and ask when the film is being released, credit card in hand, ready to experience the horrific, small, Swedish village cult for themselves.

I took my kid, a 17-year-old film student, as my guest. She can legally see rated R films on her own, has watched and appreciated films like A Clockwork Orange and Pulp Fiction.

As we finished Midsommar, we sat in silence, mouths agape, watching the credits move by. We were not alone. About half of the audience had the same response. The other half were outside talking about the film as we finally felt able to walk out.

She then went on to ask if there was a line that one had to cross, psychologically, to create a film like this. Worse, that a group of people, the studio, agreed to create something so horrific. It’s an interesting question that some other non-horror viewing friends have mentioned. Where do you draw the line between entertainment and insanity? For me, Midsommar teetered on the edge of this line.

Florence Pugh, one of my favorite current actresses (Outlaw King, Fighting with My Family) plays Dani, a very well-written young woman with family difficulties and anxiety. She is articulate about her feelings yet overthinks her relationship with her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years, Christian – played by Jack Reynor.

She senses the unspoken tension but is so in need of the relationship that she rationalizes his distance and poor behavior, both signs of his desire – but inability – to break up with Dani. Christian is that guy – the one who acts kind and supportive to Dani’s face, but rolls his eyes at her frequent texts. He has told his friends of his need to break up with her for nearly a year. She deserves so much better but is too committed in the relationship to see any fault in Christian.

Instead of breaking up with Dani, Christian takes the coward’s way out. He invites Dani to join him and his three friends (Mark, Josh, and Pelle) on their trip to Sweden. Pelle had invited the three friends to his rural village for their unique Midsommar festival. While he initially appears put out by the additional guest, he quickly makes Dani feel very welcome to join in on the experience.

While the early story is dominated by tragedy, it becomes rapidly apparent that the dialogue is swift, smart, and humorous. The audience also quickly catches on that they are being pulled along on an odd, unsettling, slow observational journey.

The visitors from outside of the community (including Dani, Christian, Mark, and Josh) are being led to believe that villager behaviors are culturally driven and thus able to be excused by cultural differences. Only the audience can see the big picture and know that things are terribly wrong. By the time the characters, individually, figure out what is going on, it is too late and one by one, we watch the remaining characters disappear. Question is, where do they go? And the bigger question is why?

I’ve not watched director Ari Aster’s 2018 Hereditary, but I know it got a lot of people talking. While I understand that they are different, with Hereditary said to be more frightening and traditional to the horror genre, I am not in a hurry to watch it after my Midsommar experience.

Which is a shame, because Midsommar was beautifully filmed, had smart dialogue, well-developed characters, stunning editing, and surprising special effects. But the visuals and cult-focused plot points were so unsettling that a week out from my screening, I continue to feel queasy if I focus in on the visual details. I will have to think twice before watching another Ari Aster film and I am NEVER going to Sweden.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2019 All rights reserved. Posted: July 3, 2019.

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