Emotional Audacity: Our Review of ‘Midsommar’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 03, 2019
Emotional Audacity: Our Review of ‘Midsommar’

You’ll always remember that moment when your summer vacation got worse then you could have possibly imagined.

From Writer/Director Ari Aster; Midsommar with his follow up here from last year’s Hereditary is giving us the movie that we didn’t necessarily expect but the one that will get us talking even more.  It’s not so much a scary film as it is just creepy as fuck leaving audiences with an uncomfortable that will be incredibly hard to shake.

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young American couple with a relationship on the brink of falling apart. But after a family tragedy keeps them together, a grieving Dani invites herself to join Christian and his friends on a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime midsummer festival in a remote Swedish village. What begins as a carefree summer holiday in a land of eternal sunlight takes a sinister turn when the insular villagers invite their guests to partake in festivities that render the pastoral paradise increasingly unnerving and viscerally disturbing.

As a follow up to a well received debut, Midsommar plays in a very unique and sweet kind of spot.  On one end it ISN’T the movie that a lot of casual horror fans may end up expecting but what it does do is plant a very terrifying idea inside your brain and let it fester and grow to the point that it actually makes you feel dirty on how far it all actually got.

This is very easily the movie writer/director Ari Aster wanted to make first (he’s been on the record saying as much) but he needed an accessible hit in order to get this made.  He genuinely tries to out Wicker Man, The Wicker Man here at it plays so shockingly well with a visual backdrop that is terrifying idyllic and genuinely disarming.  As this man is shaking us to our very core he is simultaneously giving us some of the more lush visuals that have been put to screen in 2019.  This movie looks so gorgeous that it makes us uncomfortable and he’s designed it all so well that we don’t genuinely know how uncomfortable we are until its too late.  It’s honestly hard to write about this because it’s the kind of film experience where you actually need to see it two or three times before you really feel like it is truly sinking in.

Admittedly, the script has a little too much padding and a VERY self indulgent third act but it is so subtle in its manipulations and roping us into this narrative that even at 140 minutes in length we never ever look at our watches.  It’s a film with unique characters, most of whom aren’t very likable but the film still finds a way to get us completely invested in them, thanks to some stellar leading performances from actors willing to go down a very dark rabbit hole in Aster’s psyche.

Make no mistake this is one of the most emotionally savage films that we’ve seen in recent memory and it just wouldn’t work without actors really willing to bear it all both literally and figuratively in this film.

Florence Pugh as Dani doesn’t always get enough credit for the work she’s been doing especially since the likes of Lady Macbeth and delivers an epic performance here.  She’s not just playing someone who’s broken; we’re starting this journey with her in that state because by the end of it all she takes it to an irrevocably fucked up emotional state without us as an audience even realizing it.  That’s the thing about this film, it’s genuinely not scary but it builds such an immeasurable sense of dread, in no small part to her fantastic performance that the tension of the final reveals actually feels in a weird and twisted way, almost comfortable.

Jack Reynor is strong opposite her as the guilty and ultimately neglectful boyfriend who leads her down this insanely dark path while his friends either look on in amazement or quietly disappear off the face of the earth.

While many have been calling this the cinematic representation of the worst possible break up imaginable, it’s so much more.  Midsommar has moments where it is a genuinely trying film to watch as it is rife with moments of spectacular self-indulgency but at the same time you also can’t help but be in of the glorious audacity that is thrown on to the screen.

Midsommar simply won’t be for everyone and that a reality, but for anyone who appreciates the art of the moving image you can’t help but be in awe of everything that unfolds in front of our eyes.  Even when it doesn’t quite work, there’s an artistic bravery to it all that you just can’t shake loose, even long after the credits have rolled.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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