I’m pretty sure this film is what my mom imagined I was doing every time I said I was going out with friends.
Midsommar is a 2019 horror film directed by Ari Aster. Aster has been on the rise in the horror scene since his 2018 film Hereditary made a bloody splash on the scene. Hereditary is one of my favorite horror movies of all time, so I was highly anticipating Mr. Aster’s next move. Midsommar sticks to a similar style of storytelling as his previous film, but still goes to lengths to allow it to stand on its own two feet.
Midsommar follows a group of friends traveling to Sweden to observe a colony’s ancient traditions. Prior to this, our main character suffers a heart-consuming loss that affects her relationship with her boyfriend. What transpires from there is a nightmarish turn of events that shows the commune is up to more than just flower crowns and dancing.
The film is one of those rare horror movies that opts to display most of the film in bright, beautiful sunlight. Some may think that sacrificing the mystery and dread of darkness would be detrimental to a film’s scariness, especially after Aster’s previous film utilized it so effectively. However, this piece of “daylight horror” doesn’t hold back, refusing to shy away at being visceral or disturbing. If anything, the constant daylight can lull you into a sense of ease as most of us have a predisposition to associate light with safety and darkness with danger.
Like Hereditary, Midsommar is highlighted by a powerful, emotional female performance. Florence Pugh, who I was first introduced to because of this movie, plays Dani. After an emotional loss wrecks her wellbeing, she joins her boyfriend and his friends on their trip to Sweden in hopes of taking her mind off the trauma. Pugh is an absolute powerhouse in this, with emotions so fierce and expressions so defined without coming off as a caricature. The way she portrays grief, as well as how Aster directs it, is incredible to see. This film made me an immediate fan of her, and I can’t wait to see her work in the future.
The side characters, while not as defined, still do an excellent job with the roles they’ve been given. Dani’s boyfriend Christian, played by Jack Reynor, is emotionally distant and doesn’t feel present in their relationship. His lack of true care for Dani is infuriating, as it’s clear he doesn’t want to be with her but continues to drag their relationship out. Seasoned acting veterans Will Poulter and William Jackson Harper do well as Christian’s accompanying friends, adding a bit of humor to the film where it was practically non-existent in Hereditary.
Built by the gorgeous Swedish countryside and decadent decorations of the commune, Midsommar is one of the most visually gorgeous horror films in recent memory. Everything feels fully realized in the community, from the costumes to the music. One of my favorite parts of Aster’s movies is how he sprinkles in little hints of things to come in his backgrounds and art pieces. The whole story is laid out before you from the beginning, yet every twist and turn that occurs remains surprising and unnerving. Among the stunning grandeur of the community and their customs is a host of horrifying and visceral scenes that pull no punches. Like that scene in Hereditary, Aster refuses to look away from the violence and mutilation of the human body. It’s equally fascinating and nauseating.
While the film may simply appear to be about a cult taking advantage of outsiders who don’t know any better, the heart of the film focuses on recovering from trauma and exactly why someone would join a cult in the first place. Dani’s struggles all boil over into a terrifying, yet uplifting final shot that produces an earnest happy ending despite the unapologetic murder. The road to Dani’s liberation is a long and patient one. Viewers may grow restless from the extended runtime, but those willing to immerse themselves in the experiences of the travelers will find themselves indulged by a unique take on a tried-and-true formula with surprising emotional depth.
Also, stop comparing this to The Wicker Man. Doing so undermines the message of both and does a disservice to two incredible films.
Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.
May Queen Lemonade
To coincide with Midsommar’s sunny aesthetic, I have chosen a refreshing, sweet cocktail to help alleviate your stress and forget that your S.O. totally forgot it was your birthday. No harmful psychedelics added, just good old fashion, liver destroying alcohol.
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 lemon
- ¼ cup of hot water
- 3/4 cup of cold water
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 1 shot of vanilla vodka
- Add hot water and sugar to a glass and dissolve the sugar.
- Spoon in honey and mix.
- Add lemon juice cold water, and vanilla vodka and mix.
- Strain into glass filled with ice.