Midsommar - if this is a break-up film, it might be best to stay together
Let's talk about Ari. I'm a fan of his style of film-making. I think he brings original, intriguing ideas to the screen. He chooses the best cast, the best cinematographers, the best music and knows how to build tension. My only complaint, and it's a big one, is that he does not know how to finish a story, how to bring it to a satisfying conclusion. I wrote a lot about this in my review of his 2018 film "Hereditary"
Midsommar, with original story by Aster is also directed by him. He apparently wrote the story following his own break-up. One hopes his went somewhat better. The story focuses primarily on Dani, played by the consistently wonderful Florence Pugh. In a pre-title movement we bear witness to a family tragedy that sets up the trauma of our main character. She is also in love with Christian, played by Wicklow's Jack Reynor. Christian is not as enamoured and jokes with his friends about breaking up with Dani.
Christian and his fellow students; Josh (William Harper Jackson), Mark (Will Poulter) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) decide to go to Pelle's home country of Sweden for a six week festival of mid-summer. Josh decides to write his anthropological thesis on the festival. Dani tags along. Not long after arrival, the group are given a hallucinatory substance which ends in a bad trip for Dani and suddenly we realise we're not in Kansas anymore. What follows is a spiraling experience as the group begin to lose control, and each other as the pagan rituals begin.
This is definitely a Marmite film. The screening I was in had people laughing and gasping in horror simultaneously. I think that's one of the beauties of Aster's writing and directing; we are never quite sure what is going on or what reaction we are "expected" to have.
The cinematography is breathtaking. Pawel Pogorzelski has an amazing eye and captures the beauty of each scene, be it a facial close-up or stunning landscapes. There is no doubt, this is a beautiful film to look at.
At 147 minutes, Midsommar could have spent a little more time in the editing suite. I found myself checking my watch as the third Act started. It got a bit saggy at that point having moved briskly enough up to then.
Like Heriditary, the ending of Midsommar was, I felt, an anti-climax. We've all seen The Wicker Man, we know how these stories end. For me, that was the film's weakness. It's strength is Florence Pugh who almost single-handedly carries the film. She is an astonishing presence and actor. Her's is the only fully-rounded character. Christian was a little one-dimensional and I've seen Jack Reynor do better. Will Poulter is there to provide the choric role and does an admirable job.
Most reviews I've read have given it glowing praise and five stars. I can only say, they must have been watching a different film, unless one awards stars for films that are "knowing" and "nodding" to cinematic tropes.
I expected more.