Director Ari Aster’s follow-up to his extraordinary debut “Hereditary” is just as extraordinarily well-realized and powerful as his first effort. From the first few frames, it’s clear we’re in good hands: The shots are well-framed, the editing is fluid, the dialogue is compelling and the acting is entirely believable. Rather quickly, Aster’s narrative gets under way and while one could argue that not much happens for a while, you find yourself gripped by the relationship dynamics among the characters, and overwhelmed with dread and unease as the movie gradually marches towards its inevitably grim conclusion. Ultimately it’s a story about the lifecycle of relationships and where the grief of separation is foreboding and cataclysmic, with a particular focus on the melancholic yearning for connection during difficult times of unwelcome change. In the lead role, Florence Pugh delivers an exceptionally effective, downright towering performance: Her enormous grief completely fills the screen, and she expertly communicates conflicting emotional dualities without missing a beat or sounding false even for a minute. The director’s cut is approximately 30 minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but even at nearly three hours, I found “Midsommar” absolutely spellbinding and it felt about half as long as it is, despite its thematic heaviness and occasionally shocking violence.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)