If there is anything we learned from Ari Astor’s directorial debut Hereditary, it’s this: 1.) He knows how to direct a strong female lead. 2.) He has an ever present thoughtfulness of his stylistic choices. 3.) He’s not afraid to put some weird stuff on the big screen and let you figure it out. In Astor’s new film Midsommar, he puts it all out there in broad daylight.
Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family) plays Dani, a college student who’s parents and sister die in the very beginning of the film. Jack Reynor (Sing Street) is her boyfriend Christian, who alongside friends Josh (William Jackson Harper, The Good Place), Mark (Will Poulter, We’re the Millers) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) travel to Pelle’s small Swedish community for their Midsummar celebration and for Josh and Christian to work on their thesis on the Midsummar. A celebration that includes human sacrifice, lots of drug use, and a dance competition.
Nearly all of the crew are the same people who worked with Aster on Hereditary and it shows, including cinematographer Pawel Porgorzelski, editor Lucian Johnson, and art director Richard T. Olson. The sets in the commune look like something out of a pop-up book. The editing of the film is impeccable, with one scene involving Dani entering the bathroom at an apartment on one side for it to be the airplane bathroom on the other side that really stuck with me. Pugh, while not giving a masterclass performance like Toni Collette, is more than holding her own. She is becoming an actress that I will see whatever she is in and know she is going to be great in it. My favorite thing about the film is the use of silence and how it melds with the score, which is the best I’ve seen since Phantom Thread. A great score can be it’s own character, and the music composed by The Haxan Cloak is just that.
The male co-stars are where the film slightly falters, with the exception of Blomgren. Both Poulter and Reynor have been good in things I’ve seen before, but in this film the characters created for them are inconsistent and kind of annoying to the point where I didn’t care what happened to them.
There are a few moments of the film that may detour you from wanting so see this. So if you’re squeamish to body horror, you may want to ask a friend if they think you could handle it. However those instances are spaced out in the films 140-minute runtime that you could probably figure out when to cover your eyes and hope for the best. The runtime is long, and it is a full 140 where you need to pay attention to everything you see, and there is a lot to look at. Take it all in and enjoy the trip.
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