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Hereditary writer/director Ari Aster is back to torment audiences with another horrifying head trip through the rabbit hole of grief with Midsommar; a vibrant, perverse sophomore feature that reunites the filmmaker with A24. But if Midsommar marks a return to familiar creative inspirations for Aster, the end result is a stylistic counterpoint, leaving behind the dark confines of a household trapped in **** in favor of a sprawling, sunny fever dream that adorns its terrors in floral arrangements and summery cheer. The end result is a surreal and surprisingly funny folk horror fairy tale that never quite taps into to-the-bone terror. Make no mistake, Midsommer is still a visceral, overwhelming experience, but it’s more disturbing than terrifying, culminating in a challenging emotional payoff that doesn’t offer easy answers.
Midsommar is Aster’s breakup drama, reframed through the lens of a kaleidoscopic psychological nightmare. At the heart of it all, we meet Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), a couple who absolutely need to move on from their lifeless relationship. Aster immediately establishes Dani’s struggles with mental health, clocking a bottle of anti-anxiety pills in the medicine cabinet while she torments herself over her sister’s spiraling depression and the fear that her family drama is pushing Christian away. And it is. Christian is already mentally checked out of the relationship when Dani suffers an unfathomable tragedy that forces them back together, an unbreakable seal on their codependent angst. Christian is a terrible boyfriend, played as a well-meaning but utterly thoughtless everyman by Reynor. It’s clear that our sympathies are meant to lie with Dani, but Aster mines both sides of their suffocating attachment for drama and tension; Christian’s resigned frustration with his girlfriend’s endless needs and Dani’s desperation and the self-consciousness that comes with those needs.
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