If “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is the most typical, comforting movie that’s worthy of a Fourth of July weekend release, “Midsommar” is the exact opposite.
A horror movie not so much in the sense that it’s scary, but instead about the terror of being a strange person in an unknown land, this Sweden-set film likely will be the most uncomfortable experience you’ll have at the movie theater this year.
Written and directed by Ari Aster from “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” is a brighter, more beautifully shot film that explores similar territory: How we deal with the loss of a loved one.
Dani (a harrowing performance by “Fighting With My Family” star Florence Pugh) is grief-stricken after she discovers her sister killed herself and her parents through carbon monoxide poisoning.
Guilty about the deaths in her family, Dani’s boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor from “Transformers: Age of Extinction”) invites her to travel to Sweden with his friends to experience a small village’s celebration, which happens every 90 years. While his friends protest the move, they go along with it.
In this village, they do hallucinogenic drugs, take in the culture, meet the locals and try to acclimate to their customs. Their experience takes a turn when they discover the traditions involve celebratory suicides, odd celebrations and dinners with some grotesque entrees.
With a slowly building score by British musician The Haxan Cloak, Aster ramps up the tension and unease to an almost unbearable degree. To give the audience some relief, actors like Will Poulter, as the idiotic friend Mark, and William Jackson Harper from “The Good Place” as the astute Josh, nail some well-placed humor.
Where “Hereditary” explored family dynamics bathed in dark environments, boredom and ugliness, “Midsommar” sees what happens when someone grieving is taken out to the light, where the situation is shockingly weird, but people seem to care about customs and family.
Much like the problems I had with “Hereditary,” I feel like Aster keeps the audience at an arm’s length with the characters. Besides Dani, everyone feels like a caricature meant to be knocked off at some point. The difference is that he does it off screen instead of having a crazed maniac stalking them.
Still, “Midsommar” is an anxiety-inducing experience with an endless amount of weirdness and dread that creeps up until it explodes during the movie’s finale. While it doesn’t coat itself in sex or gore, the moments when it does are shocking and occasionally nauseating. (For those worried about its content, it gets very close to NC-17 territory.)
I’m still not sure what it means. I’m not sure if I truly liked it, but I can’t deny it’s one of the most unique movies of 2019.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live