Midsommar (2019)

Director: Ari Aster

Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, Vilhelm Blomgren, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter

Screenplay: Ari Aster

147 mins. Rated R for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language.

 

Okay, I’m here to help. I’m here to protect you from possibly the worst marketing I’ve seen in a long time. Here it is: Midsommar isn’t a horror film. There, I said it.

Midsommar stars Florence Pugh (The Falling, Fighting with My Family) as Dani, a grieving girlfriend who is fighting off depression after a horrible tragedy. She joins boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, Glassland, Kin) on a trip with him and his friends to Sweden to be a part of a mid-summer festival. Christian’s friends Josh (William Jackson Harper, Paterson, TV’s The Good Place) and Mark (Will Poulter, We’re the Millers, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) aren’t big fans of Dani, and they’ve been pushing Christian to break things off with her, but Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), who has family in the festival, welcomes her along. As the festival moves along, though, it becomes clear that this is more than Dani signed up for, and as the horrors unravel, she and the others find escape to be quite unlikely.

Midsommar’s biggest sin is its length. This movie is too damned long, and most of its horrific moments occur in the first hour. I struggled to get to the end. It’s also terribly marketed as a horror film, and it’s not one. Sure, there are horror elements to the film, some truly disturbing visuals, much like Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance Crimson Peak, but the marketing sells it on the horror and it’s much more of a dark drama with some fantasy elements. If you go in expecting to be terrified, I don’t think you’ll get that. Director Ari Aster (Hereditary) said it himself a year ago, but every piece of marketing focuses on the phrase “Ari Aster’s New Nightmare,” something the film cannot reach.

The film has some truly striking visuals, though, and many of them stuck with me, as did the writing. When I looked back at the hints and foreshadowing in the film, much of it I didn’t catch until long after leaving the theater. It’s a cleverly-written screenplay that tackles some very difficult themes, and from that are some great performances from the cast, most notably Pugh. She’s damn incredible as Dani, a complete departure from her recent work in Fighting with My Family.

I will probably revisit Midsommar when it hits home video. For all my frustrations with its length, it has stuck in my head. I’m hearing rumors of an extended cut of the film, which I may try out in a more comfortable chair. For me, I was hoping for something that would scare me like Hereditary did. It wasn’t awful, but I was disappointed (and bored).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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