Movie review: 'Midsommar'

Brad Keefe

First, I'd be remiss to not acknowledge that this may well be my final movie review in print.

My print film criticism career started inauspiciously. My first review, years before I found a true home atAlive? “Coyote Ugly.”

It's bittersweet, yes, but not the end. I hope you'll make an appointment to check in at every week (and don't just wait for something to pop up in your social feeds).

So we end this little print run on a movie that may well be the opposite of “Coyote Ugly.”

Ari Aster's “Midsommar” is one of the most anticipated indie releases of the summer, bolstered by a ton of buzz and an air of uneasy mystery.

Aster returns to A24 Films to release his follow-up to “Hereditary,” and he's made a movie so bold that I can't think of a better studio fit.

That said, “Midsommar” is going to be really divisive for audiences who have just seen that slick trailer and are expecting a jump-scare fest.

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) are a young college couple whose relationship was already on the verge of crumbling when a tragic event in Dani's life adds further strain.

Despite their growing distance, Christian reluctantly invites Dani to tag along on a group trip to a remote village in Sweden, where a mutual friend has invited everyone to experience a once-in-a-lifetime festival known as Midsommar.

They're greeted by a sun that seems to never set, an idyllic locale and welcoming attendees clad in white. Psychedelics are consumed. Feasts are prepared.

But amid the sea of smiles is a sense of unease. And for these open-minded students absorbing a different culture on a summer abroad, things are about to get very strange.

As he did with “Hereditary,” Aster sets up the strange events to come with a backdrop of trauma that often colors Dani's reactions.

The result is a movie that isn't so much traditionally scary as it is maddeningly unsettling and punctuated with shock.

I'm perhaps most impressed with the way Aster paces the narrative. I tend to think that a nearly 150-minute runtime is excessive for most movies, but, like the film's characters, I lost track of time.

“Midsommar” has a dreamlike quality by design. Characters don't always respond rationally, particularly deep in the film, which will either add to the unease or lose some audience members completely.

This one is going to require a second watching from me and will no doubt stir strong love/hate feelings.

I'm here for a film that does that.

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5 stars out of 5