“Midsommar” is a waking nightmare and I mean that in the best possible way.
For over two hours you will be transported to a beautiful village in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land where the sun never seems to set and everyone is wearing ornate flower crowns and enchantingly embroidered frocks. The details of why you’re there will seem fuzzy and dubious. But you go along with it even when things start getting weird.
You will have strange food and drinks. You will take drugs you don’t want and be subjected to ceremonies and rituals and a language you don’t understand. You will witness some of the most disturbing things you’ve ever seen. You will not be too concerned when people start disappearing. And even though you will barely comprehend what’s going on , you won’t be able to leave or look away.
Writer and director Ari Aster is to thank, or blame, for this experience that’s equal parts befuddling and enthralling.
But enter with caution: “Midsommar” is not straightforward horror . It’s hazy and hard to grasp. This is an experiment in escalating uneasiness absent any release or catharsis.
A family tragedy sets an ominous tone, hitting right at the beginning before you’ve gotten to know anyone. We meet Dani (Florence Pugh) while she is frantically trying to contact her family , but gets no answer. It’s the worst outcome.
The only person she has for comfort is a boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor), who has already broken up with her in his mind. Too bad for him and his friends , Dani’s crisis makes the split all but impossible. So, Dani, a haunted shell of a human, becomes a permanent fixture at his side, even following the guys on their bro trip to a Swedish commune where one of them was raised for a festival that happens every 90 years.
“Midsommar” is audacious filmmaking and totally transfixing despite its lengthy runtime. It’s heartening to know that big, original cinematic swings like this have not gone extinct.
And yet, it might not actually add up to anything especially satisfying, or completely coherent, in the end.
But the journey is fascinating enough that it’s still worth the trip.