This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kern’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
A cinematic roller coaster, for better or worse. Still enthralling for its first half: the horrifying onset of death and despair; the incisive depiction of an already-ruined relationship rendered painfully awkward by Christian's (and his friends') insensitivity and unwillingness to even feign sympathy; the virtuoso mushroom trip that's such an accurate visual, emotional, and psychological depiction that I nearly had flashbacks; and finally the first brutal ritual. After that, it's a simple case of diminishing returns. There's still half (or more) of the film to go and it just never reaches those highs again.
I give Aster credit for sustaining discomfort throughout, even if the film never manages to reach that kind of intensity again; the background is filled to the brim with bizarre rituals and strange iconography, making nearly every frame disorienting. And I have no problem with the thematics; sure, her grief is barely touched upon ("new family" is a bit simple/on-the-nose for me) and mostly serves to inform/complicate her relationship with Christian, but I'm almost impressed with how Aster refuses to neatly resolve deep-rooted psychological issues with a three-act structure. It's as if Aster is punishing those looking for another Hereditary by withholding any explanation of the mythology (I'm beyond due for a rewatch of Hereditary, but I remember feeling disappointed by Aster's insistence on justifying/explaining the supernatural; here abandoned), and introducing similar thematic territory, only to subvert that expected emotional pay-off entirely. Hell, he even has Pelle insist that she deal with her grief at one point ("I understand, my parents also died") and she has to exclaim "that is not what this is about"; I'm not sure Aster could have been more clear. Side note: this scene of near-forced grief counseling was one of many ways the film reminded me of Antichrist.
Everything starts to slip in the second half; the pacing, the narrative, and especially the tonal balance when it gets borderline goofy in the final stretch, but the technical aspects keep it engaging, especially the score, cinematography, set design, and performances. Like a psychedelic trip, it doesn't have the same impact the second time, but it's still a worthwhile and remarkable experience.