Review by J.T. Johnson
“Midsommar” is the latest film from Ari Aster, the acclaimed director of “Hereditary”, an effective horror film that surprised most when it was released last year. So far this year, “Midsommar” has been a hit with critics but a little more polarizing with audience members. I’ll admit that after watching the film, I understood why other film critics were singing its praises while also understanding why audiences were divided on their thoughts.
The movie is definitely not for everyone. Not unlike “Hereditary”, the film is a slow burn to a climactic third act that is one of the most bizarre third acts that I’ve seen in some time. The movie also has several themes and interpretations that can be made, so not everyone is going to necessarily get the same experience out of the movie.
One of the major themes that’s a little more obvious than others is the deteriorating relationship between our heroine Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) and her emotionally distant boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). Dani suffers a hugely traumatic loss in her family at about the same time that Christian was contemplating dumping her. This event forces them to stay together and Christian reluctantly invites her to go to Sweden with him and his friends.
Once in Sweden, their friend Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) takes them to his small commune where he grew up. It is a beautiful place with wide open fields surrounded by the forrest. The commune also has plenty of dark secrets that unravel as the film progresses.
As I mentioned before, though, there are many themes to this movie including tragedy, mental health issues and relationships. Aster proves once again to be an expert at his craft. The film is at once beautiful yet oddly unsettling. You might be staring out into the fields and initially think that nothing is wrong, but then you’ll notice that the whole scene is subtly moving in unnatural ways, making the audience feel as though they have been drugged.
For the most part, you see this world through the eyes of Dani and Pugh gives an award worthy performance. You are on her emotional ride and Pugh does a great job of making you in the audience feel what she is going through the whole way. Her insanely good performance is one of the first things that hooked me when starting the film.
She is also supported by a great supporting cast including Reynor, Blomgren and the people who effectively bring the Hårga commune to life. Reynor plays Christian as a guy that feels like he is stuck in an emotionless relationship rather than just playing him as an uncaring man which could have been an easy trap for him to fall into. On the other hand, Blomgren plays Pelle as a man who seems to have good intentions but there is always a subtle hint of menace about him that he never lets you forget.
The horror in the film is more about the horrors of the mind and about setting a genuinely creepy tone. There are moments of intense violence, but Aster only uses these moments to enhance a true turning point in the story. The entire movie is also helped by a hauntingly beautiful score by Bobby Krlic.
At this point, I can’t get too far into the movie without providing major spoilers. I will say, though, that there were moments that were a bit rough to take and the audience that I was with found themselves nervously laughing at some of the things that were occurring. The movie is definitely not for everyone, but it can’t be denied that this is a pretty damn good and disturbing horror film from Aster, a filmmaker that is proving to be one hell of an auteur filmmaker.