Midsommar is the next chapter in Ari Aster’s book on grief. And he once again knocked it out of the park. Before going in all you need to know is this: this is not Hereditary and it’s not trying to be. Nor is this TERRIFYING or GHOSTLY. Midsommar is its own story that excels from anxiety, confusion, and shocking scenes.
I can’t talk about this movie without spoiling it so full warnings - this will be spoiler central.
Are you ready?
Okay, let’s do this.
Midsommar opens with a bang - Dani (Florence Pugh), our lead, has a suicidal sister who takes herself out along with her parents. Dani’s boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) was planning on breaking up with Dani, because she’s too much for him, but now he’s obligated to stay. The dynamic between these two is something I’m in awe of how well it was pulled off on screen. Let me get this out of the way - Christian is a piece of shit. He is someone all of us have dated at some point. A man who finds your emotional trauma annoying and a waste of his time, a man who gaslights you in every sense of the word, and a man who’s major complaint is that his girlfriend isn’t having enough sex with him. Meanwhile, Dani is someone a lot of women can relate to. She is a strong woman dealing with a giant amount of stress - a bipolar sister, school, living on her own etc etc. She has the weight of her emotional world on her shoulder, and like most women, is scared to share that weight with anyone. After her entire family is found dead, Dani reaches out to Christian and he reluctantly helps her - aka holds her while she cries.
Christian and his friends Mark (Will Poulter), Josh (William Jackson Harper), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) are going to Sweden to Pelle’s home village for Midsommar. Mark is there to meet some women who will hopefully sleep with him, Josh and Christian are there to work on their PHD’s. Christian, feeling guilty and projecting, invites Dani along.
There’s tension for sure - the boys didn’t really want Dani there, but Pelle welcomes her with open arms. He sees something special in her and can relate to her on a level that none of the others can, because he lost both of his parents too.
The character dynamics all around are well written and handled with care. Aster has many strengths, one of them being how well he can project real people onto our screens. And as we meet the group of village folk that Pelle grew up with we become increasingly involved in this tradition.
Grief continues to play a huge role in Midsommar as we continually check in with Dani. What I could relate to so well was the moments she would walk away to cry. She couldn’t bare to let anyone see her weakened or crying, and would hold everything in and walk off into the trees, into a bathroom, behind a building just to let out shattered sobs. Most women can probably relate to this, we don’t want to seem hysterical or emotional, and hide our true angst and grief. Catch us hiding in a bathroom stall quietly sobbing into our hair and hands so no one can hear us.
But as Dani gets more involved with this community she gets to see how they deal with their own grief and death, and it helps her. Regardless of the traumatic events going on around her (two elders throwing themselves off cliffs, pubic hairs in pies, a bear…etc, etc) Dani slowly begins to heal.
There’s a beautiful and horrifying dance scene where all the women dance until they fall. The last woman standing becomes the May Queen. Dani dances with the women and while she’s probably tripping on the tea they gave her, you get to see her smile and laugh for the first time in this entire two and a half hour film. What a relief it must feel to finally be accepted into a group after the past week of being made to feel like an impostor on a boy’s trip.
An incredible scene that I loved was after Dani finds Christian involved in a mating ritual and she runs into the bedrooms to try and hide herself away while she breaks down. The women run with her and surround her as she tries to hide from them, she wants to break down in private, but these women bring her to the floor and surround her, all of them touching her. They cry with her. They shout with her. They grieve with her. And it honestly struck me as a beautiful moment that brought me comfort. And I think if more women were given the opportunity to grieve like this, it wouldn’t be such a shameful act and something we try to hide.
At the end of the film Dani is faced with an important choice - who will the final sacrifice be? Someone from the village, or Christian. Dani chooses Christian and watches as he’s sewed into a bear carcass and burned alive. At first she tries to cry and struggle but as she turns around and see the entire village grieving, she smiles. It’s probably safe to say at this point that something in Dani’s sanity has cracked. No one sees what she has seen and comes out mentally clear. But Dani was already mentally ill, so is she seeing clarity and a future with a group that have accepted and loved her? Or has she simply slipped into insanity?
Midsommar is incredible. It’s a two and a half hour panic attack. Every scene is twisting and turning, the scenery moving in a trance like way, flowers blooming and breathing, food melting on the plate, colors attacking you retinas. It’s a complete trip that encourages you to give yourself over to the Midsommar.
An astounding second feature, and an incredible second chapter in Ari’s story. I can’t wait to watch it again.
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