Rated R | 147 mins.
Directed by Ari Aster
Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Harper Jackson, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter
I had a debate with a friend before going into Midsommar about what genre the movie falls under since we were going in blindly and had heard completely different things about it. I thought it was horror and she thought it was drama. It turns out that we were both kind of right. In fact, it's so much more than that. If I had to give it a classification, it'd be a "folklore daytime horror suspense thriller dramedy breakup experience." That might not make any sense at all, but once you see Midsommar, you'll understand. And when I heard that this movie is as close to an NC-17 rating, but still barely maintaining an R, I have to admit that I was particularly apprehensive. You'll also be asking yourself questions and making statements in your head like, "Can I laugh here? Was that supposed to be funny? Because I'm laughing. Is that normal? No, that's definitely not normal. I don't want to look at this, but why can't I avert my eyes?"
The film follows the very rocky relationship of Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor). Christian, an emotionally-detached anthropology grad student with no direction, then brings Dani, an anxiety-filled city girl without a family, along on a participant observation research trip in northern Sweden. Every 90 years, a small commune holds a celebration in the middle of the summer (ha, get it?) and they're all of a sudden right in the middle of the action. They quickly realize they've become more participants than observers and things get chaotic.
There are so many aspects of Midsommar to appreciate, but nothing compares to Ari Aster's (Hereditary) dazzling direction.There are plenty of stunning shots to marvel at that you might even forget how truly disturbing the cultural rituals portrayed in the film are. What Aster also does well is the steady buildup to the insane pandemonium that unfurls in the second act. It's definitely nerve-racking leading up to the climax(es) of the movie, but there are plenty of unsettling and uncomfortable scenes sprinkled along the way. Everything presented before your eyes are things we would never willingly want to look at, but with Midsommar, not only do you not have a choice, but you also can't help but gawk at the dreadful and grisly images.
What also makes the movie so great is the breakthrough performance from newcomer Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family). From the very start, in an extended emotional scene, you can instantly tell that Pugh has that "it" factor. She follows through with every scene she's in up until the very last frame, but at the end of it all, makes you wonder if she's truly okay after experiencing what she just went through.
I loved that Midsommar took the classic breakup plot line and masked it with horror, which you don't find a lot, if ever, so it's especially rare. It also depicts the story of a girl who, like most other girls in modern films, are just searching for who they are and finding out where they belong. If it means drinking a mushroom-infused tea, dancing until you vomit, and being at the epicenter of a cult-like (but suspiciously accepting) community, then so be it. ★★★★
★★★★★ Classic | ★★★★ Excellent | ★★★ Good | ★★ Fair | ★ Poor