I’m not an old white lady sent here from the past to warn against the dangers of drugs. In fact, when it comes to mind-altering substances, I’m generally in favor of them – even if they’re not necessarily my thing.
Keep that in mind as I make my – for only the third time ever – “don’t do drugs in advance” recommendation of Ari Aster’s latest horror, “Midsommar.” (The first was an after-the-fact proclamation on “The Devil’s Advocate,” and the second, the Jennifer Lawrence-led “Mother.”)
Florence Pugh, Vilhelm Blomgren, Jack Reynor in “Midsommar.” (Photo by Gabor Kotschy, courtesy of A24)
Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a college couple at a relationship crossroads. His friends think she’s clingy, and she’s equally worried that he’s inattentive and that she’s pushing him away. Despite these issues, he invites her to Sweden for a thesis research/vacation with him and his friends as a way to cope with a family tragedy.
While everything appears idyllic and serene in the remote village as the residents get ready for a very special and rare ceremony (every 90 years), the longer the group of visitors stick around, the more things seem off. As they get even more entrenched in the culture, things get even more bizarre, but they’re too preoccupied with their own selfish desires to really notice.
Isabelle Grill (center) in “Midsommar.” (Photo by Csaba Aknay, courtesy of A24)
Without giving anything away, “Midsommar” is a trip from beginning to end. It grabs you by the throat and drags you along for the ride, including each and every trippy action, every awkward encounter, and every WTF moment (and there quite a few). That immersive feeling makes the film fly by. It felt nowhere near its 147-minute runtime, and I was genuinely surprised when I turned my phone back on and saw the time as I exited the theater.
Telling a story as weird and nuanced as “Midsommar,” and not allowing it to drag even a bit is a true skill, and Aster is a wonderful storyteller in that regard. This thing could have very easily spun out of control – both in terms of pacing, and ridiculousness – but Aster reigned it. Sure it’s outlandish and there were times when I thought, “really?” But then I’d remind myself that in 2019 “this could easily be a documentary.”
The other thing that really stands out here is the village. The somewhat soothing, somewhat creepy theatrics of the people; the probably too good to be true optics of the village; and the feeling that they combine to create something you can’t quite figure out until the very end, make for a fun, albeit trippy 2.5 hours.
Jack Reynor and Florence Pugh in “Midsommar.” (Photo by Gabor Kotschy, courtesy of A24)
My recommendation is to go see “Midsommar,” but I strongly urge you to do so sober. It messed with my mind without so much as caffeine, so I can’t imagine what it would do to someone in another state of mind.
★★★★ of ★★★★★