In Midsommar, director Ari Aster takes us on a tense, unnerving and sometimes shocking journey of loss, acceptance and coexistence by way of ‘The Shining’ meets ‘A Field In England’ via ‘The Wicker Man.’ Unfortunately he takes us down a few wrong turns along the way that fail to live up to their obvious inspirations.
Midsommar tells the story of Dani Ardor’s emotional battle to come to terms with the gruesome loss of her parents and sister, against the backdrop of her strained relationship with boyfriend Christian Hughes. Dani is invited to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a remote northern village in Sweden, where the communal inhabitants practice Pagan rituals to worship the sun and the cycles of nature. All is not well however, and Dani and her friends soon find that the villagers festivities become increasingly more disturbed.
Aster has taken great care in Midsommar, to present a work that makes us think and has something intelligent to say. This is not a horror film of jump scares, it is a slow burn psychological thriller, where all parties including the viewer, seem to become more unhinged as the film progresses. In this aspect alone the film is a triumph. It is a film that keeps you talking and thinking about it long after it has finished. The overwhelming sense of anguish effectively pulls the viewer into Aster’s World of questionable harmony.
Ari Aster is a talented director, who at times paints pictures almost ‘Kubrick-esqu’ in their beauty and intensity, but that in itself is not enough to save Midsommar from some unforgivable errors. There are some below par special effects in a film that is pretty effects-lite and some unnecessarily confusing plot twists. I’d also argue that some of the Pagan practices we see could have done with some further research, as while the bones of what we see seems believable, some of the practices of the villagers look like a throwaway after thought of someones good idea.
The biggest mistake for me though was that bizarrely, there a moments in this film that are laugh out loud comical, and I’m not convinced whether they are intentional or not. Either way the end result is misguided and breaks the intensity that Aster has worked so hard to create for us.
Florence Pugh, however, who plays the tormented Dani Ardor, does so with such emotionally charged realism, that it’s hard not to feel her pain with her. Pugh gives a masterclass in creating empathy for the audience. I desperately wanted to know that she would be ok throughout the film, and that is all down to the character being in Pugh’s expert hands.
Midsommar is film that will leave you shocked and emotionally fragile, with imagery that will be hard to forget. But it’s frequent miss-steps will leave you frustrated that it could have been so much more.
3/5 Stars for a good film that was almost great.