Last year, Hereditary was released by A24 and received critical acclaim. It was Ari Aster's feature film directorial debut. Given all the positive attention it received, there was a lot of pressure for his second film, Midsommar, to succeed. Once again, Ari Aster managed to win over the critics and general audiences alike. I went and saw both movies on their respective opening weekends with a group of friends, and both times I walked out feeling like even if I didn't love the movie, I at least gained something from watching it. Spoilers ahead for both Midsommar and Hereditary
Midsommar follows a group of college aged adults as they go to Sweden to take part in a festival that occurs once every 90 years. What they don't realize is that the festival is being run by a cult that has sinister intentions for the group.
The ritual the cult is participating in merely acts as a vehicle for the real story of the film, which is actually a touching tale about empowerment and dealing with grief. The main character of the film is a girl named Dani who is grieving after the loss of her sister and parents 6 months after her sister committed a murder suicide. While all of this is going on, she is dealing with her neglectful boyfriend. Throughout the movie, she grows as a person as the ritual brings out a whole new side of her.
Midsommar vs. Hereditary
So given the fact that there's only 2 films under Ari Aster's name, it's almost impossible not to compare the two. For the most part, every review I've seen of this movie acts like the two films are going for completely different things. I completely disagree. Both films essentially deal with how groups of people deal with loss and go through grief. While Midsommar's ending is more hopeful and optimistic, that doesn't change the fact that the film is essentially dealing with the same material.
What's even worse is that Hereditary has something very important over Midsommar, and that's that Hereditary benefits from knowing the ending and rewatching the movie, while Midsommar does not. Hereditary has a lot of hidden details hidden throughout the film that draw your attention on a second watch. For example, When Charlie is decapitated, there is a symbol on the telephone pole that you might not pay too much attention to. However, later in the movie we learn that symbol is the mark of Paimon, a god who requires the sacrifice of the family. It's an interesting detail that you notice on a second watch, showing the movie is more connected than you might have initially thought.
Midsommar doesn't really have this. Everything is very surface level and nothing is subtle. There's even a giant exposition dump at the end of the film that just explains everything that's been going on in the simplest terms. It treats the audience like an idiot that can't pick up on subtle cues far too often.
Midsommar isn't a bad movie. I was never bored watching it. It's main problems are the fact that it feels like ground we've covered before, and that it's tone is sometimes betrayed, having scenes that should feel ominous turn comedic. I haven't given up on Ari Aster, there are some genuine moments that show he has talent as a director in both of these films, but if I go into his next film and it's another cult performing a ritual, I'm done.