Midsommar came us not long after midsummer, from the same mind that brought us the disturbing world of Hereditary. The story from Ari Aster takes us deep into the Swedish countryside and turns the idea of what makes a horror film completely upside down.
*warning: plot spoilers follow*
I will freely admit that I was afraid going in to see Midsommar because the film was described to me beforehand as belonging to the horror genre, and given that this is coming from the same director who gave us Hereditary, I was understandably nervous. But this...this isn't like any horror film I've ever seen before. I actually found the story to be full of catharsis, and ideas that resonated with me well after the end credits began to roll.
The biggest thing that surprised me about Midsommar was how much it resonated with me. I did not expect to identify so closely with Dani (Florence Pugh), who travels to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends to see the titular festival. Dani really does remind me of me, especially early in the film when she talks about her fears of driving away her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). In fact, I identified with Dani so closely, that watching her character change throughout the story gave me catharsis on a level I didn't even know I needed. The film's ideas about relationships, and what makes a relationship good (or not), really made me think, and think hard, which I believe was something the film wanted the audience to do.
The other thing that really surprised me about this film is how un-horror like it is. When I saw the previews, I was thoroughly convinced that the rows of villagers dressed in white was a clever smokescreen for the bloody massacre that was sure to come. And yet...the massacre never really comes, at least not in the way you think it will. What's really clever about Midsommar is that most of the killing is done completely offscreen. That doesn't mean there aren't hints of the violence going on however...in fact one of my favorite death moments is indicated only by the screams heard in the distance. You know something terrible is happening, but it's kept largely hidden until almost the very end of the film. And by then...at least for me personally, I was so invested in Dani's story that I couldn't feel afraid. It also helped that I was actively rooting for Christian to get his comeuppance.
Ah yes, no review would be complete without Christian. I have to compliment Jack Reynor, he turned in a magnificent performance as Dani's ultimately scummy boyfriend, who can't summon the spine to just let Dani go on her own way. Not only is Christian a terrible boyfriend, he's also a lousy graduate student. Having recently completed my own graduate studies, I feel like I'm in a unique position to appreciate how terrible a thing Christian is doing when he essentially steals Josh's idea for his thesis. If you're not familiar with how writing a thesis works, there's something you need to understand: to graduate the program, you must contribute a thesis that is completely original. As a result, no two works should be alike. Christian stating that he is going to do Josh's idea is tantamount to saying "I'm going to steal this work, and if I finish first I'll get all the credit for your work." This, combined with how he treats Dani, led me to have no sympathy whatsoever for Christian once his fate was decided.