This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
owen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
i just don't know how i feel about midsommar! there's so much to like. it's an undeniably gorgeous spectacle to watch. florence pugh delivers an absolutely outstanding performance. the score makes it feel like some sort of fantastical fairytale. the costume design is easily the best of 2019. and it's so ambitious which i can't help but admire. yet with all of that, i'm still convinced that this is nothing more than a shallow copy of hereditary.
there are far too many parallels between this and hereditary which ultimately limited my enjoyment of the experience. for instance, when the elders jump from the cliff, and we see their mutilated faces laying on the ground, i couldn't help put draw a comparison between that and the shot of charlie's decapitated head in hereditary. both of these scenes are essentially the turning points of each movie. from here on, nothing is the same, and it all begins with a mutilated face, a gruesomely shocking scene which defines the tone of the film. he's relying a shocking event to catch your attention and get you interested in the rest of the film suddenly. this may seem stupid, but it just really rubs me the wrong way.
another issue that i have is the beginning of the film, when dani's motives for the whole film are set in place by a tragedy. the whole aspect of trauma within a family really worked with hereditary. but what's different is that hereditary used this as a catalyst for the consistent terror throughout the film, never letting us forget what started this all. in midsommar, this concept, although irritatingly reminiscent of hereditary, had potential; nevertheless it was abandoned, and had no impact on the rest of the film past the hour mark. if aster is going to go with this theme of tragedy within a family again, he could at least commit to it.
what makes the beginning even less effective, and honestly offensive is the context we are given about her sister. all we know about her is that she's bipolar. dani just says something like oh you know how she is! she's bipolar! it's upsetting that the character we know nothing about who is bipolar kills herself and her parents. it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. it's perpetuating dangerous ideas about mental illness by suggesting that someone who is simply bipolar would just act violently like this.
even if i can brush this aside, there's so much more that just didn't work for me. i won't get into it all but one big problem i have is the ending. in hereditary, everything ends with some cult ritual. and it worked! it tied everything all together and solidified it as a masterpiece in my opinion. but in midsommar, the ritual at the end feels like an afterthought. it felt like aster didn't know how to end the movie so he just decided to copy his own film and end it all with some chaotic ritual. it was merely an escape from a plot that was going nowhere. he just put everything in flames and thought it would have the same effect as hereditary.
on its own, midsommar is a great film. the last shot of dani smiling is burned into my mind. it moves at a perfect pace for its length. all the little details: the trees and the grass constantly in flux, the creepy imagery of dani's sister with the gas mask as a pattern in the trees, the haunting drawings on the wall acting as foreshadowing of the climax, are essential to the atmosphere. it's a horror game changer.
i just can't let this stand on its own though. it's a disappointing follow up to hereditary which relied on the same themes only to cast them aside for the convenience of the aesthetic. it's just not all what it could be, and that makes me sad. i wish i liked it more, but hereditary will always remain the superior film for me. it takes elements of classic horror and builds upon them in a way no other modern horror film has been able to do the same. it's just timeless. i can see it going down as a classic which i will be sure to revisit as an adult. i'm even sure i'll show it to my kids when they're old enough. midsommar just doesn't have that sustainability.
i'm excited to see what aster does next. we need more directors like him. the future of horror is bright. the genre is evolving and it's only gonna keep getting better from here.