Midsommar ★★★★

Ranked — 2019
Theater Visits — 2019

Relatable and foreign, severe and absurd, accessible and impenetrable, Ari Aster's Midsommar is spellbinding. There were moments during it's 140 minute run that I felt my mind slip or slag, but that was often out of pure discomfort and disorientation. Midsommar is the first film I've seen of 2019 that has qualities to it I can't truly criticize because they all seem by design. It's also the first movie of the year I've wanted to see twice, and is definitely my favorite so far.

There's no getting away from the Hereditary comparisons here. Part of that is Aster's filmography; he's a new voice with only one other feature to compare too. But Midsommar also feels like the second piece of a brazen diptych made of the two horror flicks. Hereditary is literally dark and treading on somewhat familiar ground; Midsommar is blasting you with sunlight, and begins with something you may think you understand, but quickly evolves beyond that. But both movies are mediations on grief and extreme trauma; Aster uses the mechanics of each movie to express the relentless emotions his characters are feeling.

While Hereditary had Toni Collette, Midsommar has Florence Pugh. I'm ignorantly coming to her work for the first time, but she is absolutely remarkable in this movie—probably my favorite of the year so far, too (sorry, Elizabeth Moss a la Us). She's so expressive and watchable from beginning to end, acting as both audience surrogate and catharsis vehicle, and never falling short on either. For me, the challenges of the movie emerged when her character wasn't the primary focus; you're longing for that anchor.

There's oodles more this movie has going for it. It's absolutely stunning, with Aster's camerawork getting even better; the score here is one of the first things to genuinely rival Johnny Greenwood; and the world itself is unbelievably imaginative. Midsommar isn't perfect: it's a little long with a few slices that don't quite add up. But even when it's failing you, it's still taking a bigger swing than most movies you'll encounter.

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