Written and directed by Ari Aster
Starting: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter
Home, they say, is where the heart is. It’s where they love you. Where you hang your hat. It’s not a place, it’s a feeling. It’s your castle. There’s no place like it. For some it may be a treasure long held, while for others it may be a journey to find that takes a lifetime. It is this journey we take in Ari Aster’s sophomore effort, “Midsommar”.
Dani (Florence Pugh), who has been receiving disturbing emails from her sister, is distraught. Unable to reach her or her parents, she calls her long-time boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). He’s out with his buddies and half-heartedly talks her down. It’s clear he’s not invested in the relationship and even his friends know this. Dani soon calls him back and we find out that her sister has committed suicide and killed their parents in the process. Time passes. One of Christian’s friends, Josh (William Jackson Harper) is writing this thesis on a Midsummer ritual that takes place in their mutual friend’s Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) home town in Sweden. Originally planned as a boys getaway with another friend, Mark (Will Poulter), Christian invites the still grieving Dani to come along, much to the chagrin of the others. However, soon after arriving in Hårga, we find that things might not be as simple and as innocent as they appear…
And of course, it isn’t. After all, this is a horror movie.
As his immediate follow-up to the very successful, “Hereditary”, Aster shows us what his wheelhouse is as he takes us once again through the tortured life of a woman up to her neck in family trauma. To leave it at that, however, would be a monumental disservice to Aster’s storytelling. Teaming up once again with cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, Aster serves up an almost surreal realism that made me feel like he was the spiritual child of Wes Anderson. Much as he did in “Hereditary”, the shots are set up almost as paintings. Close ups are kept to a minimum and often, we’re left viewing from a distance with the setting as a silent extra character that provides subtle subtext. Storywise, I see Aster’s particular brand of horror as being built from tiny, mundane atrocities – little injuries of the soul that we bear everyday – magnified by an even greater malignancy acting upon them. Much like his visuals, it is artful and subtle. Even if you break down the story into the standard horror movie tropes (the girl, the bad boyfriend, the comic relief, the nice guy and the guy working on his graduate thesis), I feel there is so much more going on just between those characters that you would find in your typical movie about young adults being in a camp in the woods. The web connecting the characters is more than just they go to the same school and that’s that. It satisfyingly works on multiple levels.
“Midsommar” is a journey that takes us to that mythical place where we feel at home. It’s a treasure to hold on to and you might find that it’s just what you’re looking for.