"Midsommar" is one of the most visually striking films of the year. Its setting is perfectly chosen.
The lush forest creates geographic isolation and a backdrop of contrasted beauty. This allows for harrowing moments of the film to be juxtaposed by natural beauty, playing into a plot that attempts to center the cycle of life as a frame that justifies the horror taking place.
Captivating moments drenched in offsetting psychedelic experiences create the suspense and odd beauty in the film's truly horrifying moments.
The scenes feature VFX less derived from fantasy and more rooted in reality, slightly morphing the world so it seems just distant enough from real life to cause a cognitive dissonance in the background. Breathing plants and fluctuating trees, reminiscent of a sci-fi thriller like "Annihilation," move unhinged to reality while still planted in the unending sunlight of a real Swedish countryside.
Despite its visual qualities, "Midsommar's" plot ultimately fails to intrigue past a base level. The overarching plot is immediately assumable and the side-plots for the various characters, while all done with impressive performances, are left at a basic stage and cut off before any real development can occur.
Throughout the film a sense of dissatisfaction remains after characters are introduced and led down a plot line that is left underdeveloped. While director Ari Aster offers a diverse set of characters with differing influences and backstories, their place in the story often feels lacking.
Spoiler Alert: The best example of this is Josh (William Jackson Harper), a graduate student in anthropology who is looking to do research on the festivities. Their slow discovery of the group’s dark practices was part of an overall slow descent of the characters into terror but ultimately ended in a quick and unsatisfying death.
Each of the characters faces a similar descent. The distance that grows between Dani and Christian, the drama over a thesis topic or the manipulation from Pelle all come together to integrate everyone into the hostile and off-putting environment. It’s here in the stressful tensions placed on their friendship that the film’s story begins to take off, leaving the hurried endings of the characters feel hollow and the overall plot lacking.
Despite the lacking plot, the visuals, the setting and the performances (combined with the dialogue, which Aster wrote) are what hold "Midsommar" together and make it into a striking film. While its story lacked in many places, especially when compared to Aster’s film "Hereditary," the rest of the movie is impactful in its exploration of visuals.