Midsommer is the follow up feature film from writer/director Ari Astor who directed the chilling ‘Hereditory’ last year. Dani (Florence Pugh in a brilliant performance) is a troubled young women, trapped into a cycle of mental abuse by her sister with Bipolar who constantly threatens to end her life via e-mail and text message.
When she actually follows through with her latest threat, taking Dani’s parents along with her in a shocking scene, Dani’s world threatens to fall apart. Relying on an unsympathetic boyfriend Christian played astutely by Jack Reynor, who secretly really just wants to dump her but doesn’t have the heart to do so, to help put her back together. Dani invites herself onto a trip to Sweden that Christian didn’t tell her about to visit a remote village for a few weeks of relaxation and to take her mind off of her woes.
Shot in a very bright and distancing fashion, it Cooley contrasts the vibrant photography to create a quietly unsettling tone. Echoing movies like ‘The wicker man’ we are dropped into a remote cult whose practices are weird and distorted. For a while we are visitors casually witnessing a gradual deception take place. This slow pace could easily polarize viewers. I would say if you prefer your movie going experience to be constantly in your face then this movie isn’t for you. If, however you prefer a slow burn there are weirdly enjoyable moments to be had. The fact that there are genuine scenes of macabre laughter along the way helps a great deal.
Not scary in the slightest, ‘Midsommar’ prefers to play out in a vibrantly unsettling manner. Utilizing a bright summer colour palette of greens and yellows glossing over the darkness hidden within. Its a clever conceit which does hold your attention. I did however feel that most of the characters where disposable, reacting somewhat unrealistically when some of their fellow travel companions begin to disappear. The explanations given by the elder inhabitants are at best suspicious. But maybe that is the point of their characters: selfishness. Certainly I would agree when it comes to the character of Christian who is somewhat self centred and a little devious. The other disappointing aspect is the plot which follows a very predicable line. It left a little feeling of ‘its very pretty to look at but where are the surprises in the plot?’.
Near the end a scene involving a coerced sexual ritual is played for weirdness and laughter. It is a darkly comical scene that had the audience in my screening in fits of laughter. It could have so easily fallen apart but Jack Reynor plays it perfectly, his facial expressions comic gold. I must admit I wasn’t expecting the movie to have any humour in it but I’m happy to say it did.
In the end ‘Midsommar’ isn’t perfect but it is enjoyable. Not for everyone like his previous movie ‘Hereditory’. There are some unexplained details that might confuse some. Taken as a whole it was a little on the long side. If you find slow burn movies a slog then you wont find this movie any different. However, if you enjoy weird goings on with a touch of ‘The wicker man’ then you might enjoy this. I would, however, say don’t expect it to break the mold and necessarily add anything new to that movie trope.
***1/2 out of *****