Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)

Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster, 2019) – A visit to Swedish village’s midsummer festival gradually devolves into a series of chilling rituals.

5/5

Dani (Florence Pugh) is in a bad place. She has just lost her whole family to a horrific murder-suicide, and the only loved one she has left is her estranged boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). She holds fast to the tenuous connection for fear of being alone, joining him and his friends on their midsummer vacation in Sweden.

There, Christian’s friends make clear their disdain for her presence, adding to Dani’s grief. Her anxiety heightens as she tries to hide it. But her emotional dependence on an unappreciative partner leaves her visibly vulnerable, as though without him, she may fall.

Midsommar
Having a wail of a time in Sweden.

In the dysfunctional couple, Midsommar explores the complex dynamics of broken relationships. It is clear that Christian hangs onto the loveless relationship out of obligation, and that Dani senses his resentment. Still, she finds solace in his impassive support, desperately clinging into what she had already lost, even if it meant giving more than she will ever receive.

Her desperate need for control had likely come from a place of fear. She has had little control over her own life, where she struggled to cope with the troubles of her mentally afflicted sister. She became dependent on the love that she found and her family never could give. Before long, all she had left was a toxic relationship that she had no choice, but to hold onto.

It is no wonder that she finds herself drawn to the symbiotic family at the centre of the midsummer festival. These are the people who take full control of their own lives, including their deaths. They embrace all as one, and bond in mass hysteria. In the bizarre rituals of the pagan cult, she finds the sense of belonging that she never truly had.

Midsommar
Honestly, I’d cry too if I was with this guy.

The perpetual daylight and verdant greens seem apt for her coming-of-age, if not for the deathly festivities in the midsummer festival of Ari Aster’s creation. Sudden brutality accompanies the rewritten traditions, seeing to it that Dani may be the only one on an upward trajectory, empowered in a twisted way.

Most meet their dire fates, some more deserving than others. Visceral violence comes in sudden bursts, leaving dropped jaws in unexpected moments. One cannot help but feel just a tiny bit of concern for Ari Aster, between this and Hereditary, not forgetting his short films. Thankfully, his inspiration seems to come mostly from reel life (we hope).

Much of the imagery brings to mind Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain and his montage of otherworldly fantasies. The surreal atmosphere reinforces the isolation of the remote village, mirroring Dani’s own. In a place where she finally belongs, she finds a family who truly accepted her and above all, the courage to live out her dream of being free.

But it is just that, a momentary and deadly dream. She breaks out of the prison of her own making, only to slip back into another. In her one-way journey and that of the ones she travelled with, Midsommar proves both cathartic and terrifying. As with Hereditary, Ari Aster has left us with deep thoughts into the torments of his characters, and thereby high hopes for his next bold venture.


Skål to Ari Aster for letting his dark imagination loose in Midsommar, making sumptuous fodder for thoughtful introspection and haunting nightmares.

19 thoughts on “Movie Review: Midsommar (2019)”

  1. I really wish I could have stuck with this movie till the end. I was all on board for a while but that final act was simply too absurd to me and kinda railroaded my experience. I may give it another shot down the road but I’m in no hurry to.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny, I do too (probably too high – LOL). I just felt he was being weird and shocking for no other reason than to be weird and shocking. It has been interesting watching the different reactions to it.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I suppose it was the coitus scene? He did go far on that one, homage or otherwise. Haha! But I do find it fascinating, in how the cult had eventually exploited Christian, who first believed he was the one using them.

          The scene also subverts expectations of women being the victims of debasement in horror. This time, we have a final girl who doesn’t just survive. In a way, she’s only just begun to live!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I do like that interpretation. But I do struggle with it because her “living” seems inescapably hinged on (frankly) this insane cultish ideology. So how free is she? And I still wonder about what Aster is saying about her mental health. Has she gone insane or has she found liberty? Heck, I don’t know.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I think you’ve got that exactly right! And it makes sense with her character, who’s always valued her false sense of control. The notion that she eventually comes to accept the idea of freedom, rather than actual liberty, doesn’t seem that crazy.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. A really great review! You explore the film in very interesting areas, and I loved your emphasis on the inner being of Dani. It is clear that the film could be viewed as Dani’s personal/inner journey/transformation as well as what is going on outside of her. I definitely agree with your rating, too. It was one of the best films of 2019 for me – no question about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Paul! Ari Aster’s taste for the bizarre is certainly not for everyone, but I agree with you on his strengths. You can always count on him for intriguing, original ideas! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Absolutely! The distinctive look of the landscapes, costumes, and invented (I hope) traditions were all compelling to watch, yet somehow disconcerting despite the perpetual sunlight and bright colours.

          Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.