Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence, sex scenes, drug use & suicide
Florence Pugh as Dani Ardor
Jack Reynor as Christian Hughes
William Jackson Harper as Josh
Vilhelm Blomgren as Pelle
Will Poulter as Mark
Director: Ari Aster
With their relationship in trouble, a young American couple travel to a fabled Swedish midsummer festival where a seemingly pastoral paradise transforms into a sinister, dread-soaked nightmare as the locals reveal their terrifying agenda.
The delay on this review warrants an explanation. For many, Midsommar has already been released months ago. However for whatever reason, it took A24 a really long time to release it here in New Zealand, surprising considering that Hereditary (another A24 and Ari Aster directed movie) released here around the same time as everywhere else. So there was an absurd wait for it to come to cinemas here, and as of this moment I’m not even sure if it’ll ever come. The wait was bad enough, but it also seemed like plenty of people were just willing to post screencaps and spoilers about it with no filter whatsoever. So I pretty much knew most of the movie weeks before going into it, so that could be why a lot of the more ‘shocking’ parts really had little to no impact on me. So if at points I sound rather bitter throughout the review, that’s probably why.
Midsommar was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. All I really knew about it was that it is the next film by Ari Aster, who directed Hereditary, which was in itself quite a great horror movie and one of the highlights from 2018. Midsommar was definitely an interesting change in terms of concept, it’s surrounding people who go to a Swedish cult and I was interested in it. As the movie released in most places and time passed, I just wasn’t that hyped for it. Admittedly it’s likely to do with the aforementioned fact that I was spoiled. Nonetheless I got onto watching it as soon as I could watch it in a quality that wasn’t cam footage. I’ve finally seen the movie, and let’s just say that I have some conflicting thoughts about this movie.
Unlike plenty of people who have absolutely no consideration for others, I actually don’t want to spoil this movie for anyone, as it’s probably better experienced going in not knowing too much. So for those who haven’t been spoiled yet, this review is completely spoiler free. I’m fully aware that there is a director’s cut, I don’t know the differences between the cuts since I haven’t seen that version just yet. It’s going to be a while before I watch that however, it’s nearly 3 hours long and I don’t know if I’d be up for that. The theatrical cut is 2 hours and 30 minutes long, and I already had a hard time getting through all of that. The first 20 minutes is quite slow, and already it didn’t start off the best. It takes its time really building up everything or even getting to the primary location of the movie. I didn’t necessarily want it to be rushing through the plot, but I did want it to pick up the pace a little bit. It feels incredibly drawn out, even after it starts getting really ‘wild’ after the first hour. It’s got some horror, but it’s not horror in the traditional sense of a lot of jumpscares and the like. Hereditary was much more of a horror movie than Midsommar, so don’t expect to see similarities in the scares department. That’s not to say that the movie considerably improved when I viewed it as a drama instead of a horror movie however. The movie also has a surprising amount of comedy, and I can at least say that when present it was done well. So if you’re wondering why certain moments appear more comedic than scary, chances are that it was intentional. This movie like Hereditary was about grief, but whereas I felt that movie did it well, Midsommar did it to mixed results (no spoilers). The movie also sort of about toxic relationships, it establishes what direction it is going in but it sure takes it’s time telling it, with not much interesting stuff in between. Some thought has been put into aspects of the cult, but its rather 2 dimensional typical cult stuff. It’s really like you’ve seen similar things like this before. Sure there are some intentionally weird moments I guess, but again I wasn’t invested enough in the characters or the plot to be affected by or care about it. The ending is something that people are conflicted about. Given some of the reactions (because again some people on social media couldn’t just hold back on talking about the ending), I feel like some people are interpreting it wrong. While I’m fine with it, it’s nothing that I loved or anything, it was just like “well, I guess the movie is over”. Though my reaction is probably more to do with the rest of the movie than the actual ending. Now for the inevitable question, did knowing what was going to happen affect my experience? I did know in fact what was going to happen, but given that the movie was 2 hours and a half long, I expected much more to happen in between these moments. However that’s not the case, I could sum up the plot in about a few sentences and the amount of depth with the plotlines in that summary is about as deep as the actual movie goes. Yes the movie has stuff about bad relationships and grief/trauma, but it doesn’t really do anything with them. Not to mention waiting around for certain plot points to occur made the experience somehow even more tedious.
The acting was quite good. The highlight is Florence Pugh as the lead character, easily the closest thing to a complex character in Midsommar. She does display a wide range of emotions, and is really good in the movie. The rest of the characters aren’t really given much in terms of depth. Jack Reynor plays the boyfriend and he does very well, but he more than the rest of the cast really suffers most from not having enough material to work with (though I did hear there’s more stuff with him in the director’s cut). The rest of the cast including Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper and Vilhelm Blomgren were also good.
Ari Aster has definitely continued to expand his talent since Hereditary, going from a movie with a darker pallet to a much brighter one, and usually set out in the open where everything can be seen. There’s a lot of detail put into the location, costumes, production design and the like. It’s very well directed and a really good looking movie overall. If you have a weak stomach you might not be able to handle it, as there is some gore. With that said, none of it actually affected me or really disturbed me, it was sort of just there. The movie at times really seemed like it was trying to be disturbing, given the times it sometimes cut back to the moments of gore, but it didn’t make it any scarier to me. I wasn’t even really unnerved by the movie on the whole, I was just watching what was happening. I guess credit to Aster for only having one jumpscare throughout the whole movie.
Midsommar is a movie that I have some very mixed thoughts on. The direction is pretty good, the acting is great, and some of the ideas did have potential. Even though I don’t dislike the movie however, I do have my issues. The movie is drawn out throughout it’s very long runtime, fails to interest, doesn’t really deliver on the themes it attempts to have a commentary on, and at times was a real chore to get through. Despite its length, it really explores so very little, it made me wonder why this movie even existed. It’s actually quite disappointing to me, I really thought I would like it a lot more. I might need to watch Hereditary again to see if that movie still holds up on a second viewing. Perhaps the director’s cut fixes some of the issues I have, but given the drawn out pacing and the length, let’s just say it’ll be a while before I get around to it. I honestly can’t guarantee whether you’ll like Midsommar or not, even about whether you liked Aster’s previous movie or not. I have seen people who hate Hereditary love this movie, and vice versa. So quite simply, if you’re interested in seeing it, then check it out for yourself.