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 at the hands of a pagan cult.
Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) 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. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.Written by
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)
Performed by Frankie Valli
Written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe
Published by Seasons Four Music (BMI) and EMI Longitude Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Rhino Entertainment Company / The Four Seasons Partnership
By arrangement with Warner Music Group Film & TV Licensing See more »
Horror is my favorite genre to see done right, because it's so rarely done right. Director and writer Ari Aster had something very special with his first film Hereditary. Perhaps the film most recommended to me in the last few years. I have yet to see it, but after last night's screening of his 2nd and newest feature: Midsommar; I made immediate plans to rectify that.
It's easy to just say a group of friends travel to Europe to write their college thesis on European pagan traditions but that would be a disservice to the early story Aster creates. I want to keep the plot description mum, but the early parts of this film are stricken with grief, angst, and some of the most realistic portrayals of gaslighting I've seen on film. These are the emotional bricks the story is constructed on. I never found myself waiting for them to just hurry up and go to Europe because the story is so effectively written and performed.
Once they arrive to the small Swedish commune, the entire story starts shifting into something else entirely. We just get a feeling in our gut, all these smiling white people. Their all white garb, white teeth, white hair. It's an uneasy amount of white and cleanliness, positioned on gorgeous green hills speckled with bright blue, red, pink and purple flowers. Aster's use of color brilliantly fills the screen. It's a rather unsettling feeling: all this natural beauty and we can't take comfort in any of it.
When we learn about the Midsommar festivities planned it seems like a big party for the students, we in the audience see the madness through the flowers. Things get turned to 11 quickly. We see people jumping to their deaths from towering cliffs, faces get smashed with hammers, faces get cutoff and worn as masks, menstrual blood consumed, incredibly graphic, brutal violence.
Tonally it's a trip because there is also so much humor injected into the script. Mainly the joke of the kids freaking out and their smiling, white (oh so white) hosts calming them down; assuring them that this is all merely tradition. Smashing someone's head open with a large mallet is simply setting their willing soul free, it's not a big deal. You see? He likes getting his brains bashed in! It beats growing old in a nursing home! The things these kids get put through are wonderfully dreadful.
Midsommar is a splendid display of young talent. Florence Pugh's portrayal of Dani is incredible. Her expressions are mesmerizing, she conveys so much emotion with her face. I felt a little less compelled by her boyfriend Christian played by Jack Reynor. We're very clearly not supposed to like his character, but I didn't like him due to his performance. It felt stiff and at times a little forced. Physically he was perfect for the role, but his delivery and timing left me feeling sort of...meh. Luckily the writing is so strong I never get too caught up in that. Even if one performance feels a little less compelling, the important part is the gang of young friends' performances and personalities work as a whole.
Aster's ability to pace a 2-and-a-half-hour film and make it feel short is the genius. Every single scene feels important, there are so many details and carefully crafted instances of foreshadowing. Not heavy handed, but deft and nerve racking. In a time where attention spans are shrinking it's rewarding and refreshing to see a film not only take it's time but to do so in a way that makes the film work even better. It's not self-indulgent, it's vulnerable and enticing. I want to see this one again just to see exactly what he sets up earlier in the film. Midsommar is upsetting, grotesque, beautiful and humorous all at once. It's a great horror film and being as though it's only Aster's 2nd feature, the next step in his career is an exciting thought.
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