Writer/director Ari Aster left an impression with last year’s Hereditary and follows up with another slow-burn, visually beautiful movie with incredibly similar structure and subtext. Midsommar is about a young woman named Dani (Florence Pugh) who experiences the tragic death of her parents and sister shortly before embarking on a trip to Sweden where her boyfriend and his college buddies are going to study the customs of a seemingly happy, self-sustaining cult. The cult is cool at first, but soon reveals itself to be a little odd… then a little frightening… then downright dangerous. Think Hereditary meets The Wicker Man, with shades of The Green Inferno, The Stepford Wives, Logan’s Run, and that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the nearly-naked people want to kill Wesley for stepping on the grass. That’s Midsommar.
I enjoyed the film’s beautiful locations and photography. While the film telegraphs a lot of its intentions (in stark contrast to Hereditary), it’s still interesting to see how those events are played out. You get shroom-laced trips, ritual deaths, and ritual sex in this movie. And what’s the bear for? You’ll find out. Though the story is grim at times, Aster sprinkles moments of well-needed comedy throughout. Florence Pugh carries the film pretty well, though the supporting players (especially Jack Reynor as her boyfriend) hit some rough patches. A couple of the cult members are played by actors with great faces and charisma. And for a film that runs two and one-half hours, I was rarely wanting to speed things along.
If I hadn’t seen Hereditary, I would probably like Midsommar more — it would have surprised me more. Aster has seemingly patterned the two films so closely after one another that they kick off with the same sort of tragedy, then flirt with second acts where the grief-stricken are taken advantage of by malevolent forces pretending to be compassionate, and end in self-indulgent ecclesiasticism. Compared to the wildly original Hereditary, Midsommar comes up just a little disappointing. I was also disappointed with the score at the beginning and end of the film. It made me want to say, “Bitch, tone it down a bit. This is not the Second Coming.”