Relationships can be a complicated thing for lots of people, either due to emotional baggage or just unfortunate circumstances that can lead to a fallout between the two parties, but relationships in movies tend to focus on the black and white nature of unhealthy ones. Midsommar is both tense and disturbing, leaving me completely shaken as the film looks at the themes of unhealthy relationships and grief in a movie that is not for everyone. The trailers have also marketed Midsommar as a horror movie, when really it’s more of a slow burn, psychological thriller and drama, so it’s important to check your expectations entering this film.
Midsommar is about a group of friends who travel to Sweden for the 9-day midsommar festival that happens every 90 years, and all seems fine when we get there. There are people taking shrooms, smoking weed and experiencing the culture like special ceremonies, competitions and religious views, but as the days go on, things start to get weird, which I won’t go into without spoilers. The story mainly focuses on Dani and Christian and their rocky relationship, which I thought was really well set up in the beginning, especially with the tragedy that happens to Dani before they go to Sweden, and it helps set up her mental health struggles. Both seemingly want to break off from each other, but also need the support of each other, and so you feel as conflicted as the characters.
Midsommar is Ari Aster‘s second directorial feature and he has proven himself as someone who knows his craft very well, and creates with masterful detail. The movie is beautiful to look at with the vibrant colours of the Swedish landscape popping out in every frame and it is extremely thought out. There’s always more going on in the shot than what’s seen on the surface level, and I beg you to keep an eye on the pieces of artwork hanging on the walls as they’ll either foreshadow something or they’re telling another story on their own. Another great detail is how disorienting the imagery can get when the characters are high. The flowers pulse like a heart and the environment breathes and it makes you question whether what’s happening on screen is actually going down at all. Ari Aster also moves the camera in very creative ways, just like he did with Hereditary, as transitions flow so smoothly and almost make it feel like it’s all connected. His theme of grief is also something he touched on in Hereditary, but I don’t feel it was as well focused on as his theme of unhealthy relationships and mental health. The way he tells his stories are definitely not for everyone, but the way he connects his themes in them is brilliant, if not disturbing. The content in the movie had shaken me in a way that I don’t think any other movie had done, and the way Ari Aster creates tension made me quite uncomfortable, I had to almost take a break from the movie to calm down. The movie is also pretty funny, but I questioned what I was laughing about at multiple points as perhaps I was laughing to try and hold onto some sanity.
The performances in the movie are all excellent. Florence Pugh is a standout for me as Dani, and the complexity of emotions she has to go through is outstanding. You feel her mental breakdown through the movie and you feel what she’s going through at times when the disturbing stuff starts flying. Jack Reynor plays Christian and Dani’s boyfriend whose descent into insanity is very subtle and he does an excellent job in the role. The awkward chemistry between him and Dani is also great, to the point where you buy their struggling relationship and the fact that they’ve been together for awhile. Another performance I just have to mention is Will Poulter as Mark who made me laugh multiple times through the movie and does a great job as being the person who just came to Sweden to get laid and do drugs. Other people in the movie worth mentioning are William Jackson Harper as Josh and Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle.
Midsommar is not going to be for everyone, and so I ask you to check your expectations well before entering the movie. It’s certainly not your traditional horror movie, and it’s full to the brim with disturbing content and tension building like a guitar string with no real release. Ari Aster is a director that’s definitely worth looking out for as he understands his craft to great detail. The theme of grief doesn’t entirely hit as well as he would probably have liked, but unhealthy relationships and mental health are all well realized. There are some things in the movie that don’t quite work, but if you were a fan of Hereditary, check this one out. I also don’t recommend this movie if you’re going through a rough relationship/breakup of your own or are currently struggling with mental health.
Midsommar is another unique “art house” horror film by Ari Aster created with loads of detail that I no doubt missed on my first viewing. The content is disturbing and certainly not for everyone so it’s important to check your expectations. Not all the themes completely land and there’s a couple of things that doesn’t work but the level of craft definitely make it worth a watch if you like these types of movies.