In many ways this was the year of Florence Pugh. She came to us in 2016 with an eye opening turn in Lady MacBeth following that up in 2018 with The Commuter and Outlaw King. Solidifying that with her excellent trio of films in 2019. Fighting with My Family, Midsommar and the upcoming Little Women. She has become a talent to watch. England’s “it” girl of film.
What is most intruiging about Florence Pugh is her range. Even in 2019 she illustrated it performing in a comedy/drama, a period piece and a off center horror. A wide range of subjects and characters demanded of her. For me Midsommar was probably the most surprising.
During a rough patch in their four year relationship, young American couple Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor – Macbeth – 2015, Grassland) embark on a trip to Sweden. Before they left Dani was a mental mess as her sister committed suicide while at the same time killing their parents. Her ups and downs have tested the relationship.
Despite the incertainty, the couple decides to travel with Christian’s friends, Josh (William Jackson Harper – from television’s The Good Place), Mark (Will Poulter – We’re the Millers, The Maze Runner) and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren – first film), to Sweden to take in a festival called Midsommar. Midsommar, a summer festival, happens in a secluded rural village in which Pelle grew up in.
It starts off rather quaint with scholastic interest with Josh and Christian deciding to write their theses about the festival. Things begin to take a sinister turn when the villagers reveal themselves and invite the guests to take part in the event. The Americans begin to realize that something nefarious is happening.
So bizarre. So much so I am having a hard time explaining things and how I feel about the film. What is best is to go into things rather blind as I did. I really knew nothing about the film other than there was plenty of buzz about it and even placing it as a dark horse in the Oscar noms race.
It is a horror, but certainly not what we have seen from the genre of late. No jump scares. Instead it is a slow build. The tension or worry is built up at a rather languid pace. Tricks you with that pace and some beautiful scenery. Rather than being frightening you are traumatized after watching Midsommar. Arthouse horror.
Pugh is amazing here. She must have been drained after filming this. Her character is in a constant state of despair, fright and mental unbalance. Plenty is asked of the young actress. Though there are plenty of other actors here she is the focal point. Her character/performance is what keeps you watching despite the fact that the emotional body blows keep coming.
As stated the cinematography is amazing. A series of pristine pictures by Pawel Pogorzelski (Boost, Tragedy Girls). The beauty is oddly mixed with the gross. A big part of the construction of this nightmare.
The story….what can be said. It is slow and creepy. Director and screenwriter Ari Aster (Hereditary) has constructed fleshed out characters with plenty of nuance. Christian is sometimes a good boyfriend while also a jerk. Dani is mentally unstable and yet the only one who seems cogent about what is going on. Shocking moment after shocking moment happens and yet you are fooled along with staying invested.
-Let the Festivities Begin: Manifesting Midsommar
-Bear in a Cage Promo