Well, sure, that’s one way to dump your arsehole of a boyfriend I suppose but would a simple phone call not have sufficed? But we are getting ahead of ourselves here in talking about Midsommar, the sophomore effort from writer/director Ari Aster, he of Hereditary fame which shook the world last summer. And where that film was a metaphor for grief and loss, his follow-up could be entitled How to Dump Your Boyfriend and Perfect Dancing Around a Maypole, given this is all about a relationship gone sour and the aforementioned deterioration of said coupling.
Before they set off for their sun-soaked ritualistic summer festivities, young academic Christian (Jack Reynor) is being urged by his fellow classmates to dump his clingy girlfriend Dani (Florence Pugh) before but just weeks ahead of flying out for their life-changing experience, a family tragedy of the most unbearable sends Dani’s life spiralling out of control. And rather than be cruel, Christian is kind, inviting her to join them in witnessing Midsommar in a small Swedish community, who join together every 90 years to celebrate. The surroundings seem to be transformative for Dani, embracing the location change that helps her to, at least at times, forget her recent past as she basks in the tranquil greenery that embraces them all. That is, until those around her reveal their true nature.
Written as he himself was getting over a break-up, Aster’s latest lavish, sumptuous and surprising humorous difficult-second-album showcases all of the immense talent from his first film but with even greater power and potency. From the opening moments that shock just as much as its finale, Midsommar burrows beneath your skin and only gets deeper and more powerful as the moments tick on during its 2 ½ hour runtime that never feels as much. The sharp, almost glowing visuals are utterly glorious, stark and effervescent, only luring you in as much as they do those in the film with the promise of a dream-like holiday, peaceful and contemplative. Anything but.
Those expecting the shock factor that made Hereditary stick so vividly may feel a little let down by what goes on in this one, but it’s slower yet even more acutely delivered horror – whether of the pagen kind or the toxic relationship kind – is even more impressive. Just like many of the film’s it takes its influence from – The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby’s nerve-shredding tension or The Shining‘s slithering, unnerving camera work – this is a slow, meandering scarer that hypnotises like the many magic mushrooms our students ingest throughout film before, like a coiled viper, it strikes. Hard.
And for such unhinged deranged set of circumstances you need a cast of actors willing to follow and, just as his previous group did, his players jump straight in the deep end. But it’s Florence Pugh who, of course, steals the film with another miraculous and magnificent performance that’s at turns astoundingly heartbreaking and ferociously gleeful. Don’t be shocked if, like Toni Collette last year, he name is banded around come Oscars time.
This, as with most great horror films, will not be for everyone. In fact, those who loved Hereditary may flat out hate everything about this one, but that is hugely unlikely as Midsommar is an even more unequivocally superb and disturbing film that demands you see it to believe it. Come for the sunshine, stay for the heat.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=5]
Horror, Drama | USA, 2019 | 18 | 3rd July 2019 (UK) | EFD Films | Dir.Ari Aster | Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, Will Poulter