Midsommar (4 stars)

Midsommar

Ari Aster follows Hereditary with a Wicker Man-esque nightmare, starring Florence Pugh

Midsommar, American director Ari Aster's follow-up to his sensational chiller Hereditary, is unquestionably one of the most anticipated films this year. While his debut bore comparison to The Exorcist, this slow-burn sophomore effort will inevitably be looked upon as a spiritual cousin to The Wicker Man. Exquisitely detailed, flush with moments to savour and unpack, it confirms what we knew already: Aster is a unique filmmaking talent with enormous confidence behind the camera.

As with its predecessor, grief looms. Dani (Florence Pugh) is a fragile American girl dating fellow student Christian (Jack Reynor), whose friends – Josh (William Jackson Harper), Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), Mark (Will Poulter) – try to convince him to dump her. But then the unthinkable happens: a horrifying tragedy that sees Dani lose family members in the most appalling way.

Some time later, the now-hollow Dani discovers that Christian is planning a trip to Sweden with his friends, to the off-the-beaten-track commune that Pelle comes from. Reluctantly tagging along, she finds a welcoming group of rural Swedish folk, all white linens and beatific smiles, ready to celebrate the summer solstice. Upon arrival, the gang drop mushrooms – Aster neatly using camera trickery to replicate psychedelic effects – but the intense feeling this brings on is nothing compared with what's to come.

Only gradually does the lid come off this hermetically-sealed universe to unleash its power. For some, it'll be too long; the film simmers across its 147-minutes rather than explodes, never truly terrifying in the way Hereditary did. Arguably, Aster also never quite makes us care enough about those around Dani, who gradually becomes embraced by this singular community. But, led by full-blooded turns from Pugh and Reynor (who endures the single weirdest sex scene ever), Midsommar still has the ability to transfix you with its hypnotic glare.

General release from Fri 5 Jul.

Midsommar

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US / Sweden
  • 2h 20min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Ari Aster
  • Cast: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, Will Poulter
  • UK release: 3 July 2019

Dani (Pugh) is a fragile American girl dating fellow student Christian (Reynor) who, after tragically losing family members, travels to Sweden with Christian and his friends to visit a commune. Slow-burn horror which simmers rather than explodes, but Pugh and Reynor give full-blooded turns and it’s transfixing.

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