FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis:

Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs.

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First episode date: February 3, 2021

Network: Netflix

Program creator: Maggie Friedman

Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon

My Review:

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After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into the characters or their story. The first two episodes especially contain a lot of set-up for later episodes. Because of this, I found the first few episodes to be a little boring, and I found my attention wavering often. However, by the time I got into the middle of the season, I found myself fully invested in the character’s lives and their stories.


Overall the show is done in a very creative way. The show follows a unilinear structure, and the audience gets a look into Tully and Kate’s lives through watching both the present and various flashbacks from different stages of their lives. The show did an outstanding job of not making this confusing. By using child actors, changing hairstyles, and makeup as they age, I had no confusion of what period I was currently watching.

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Oftentimes the flashbacks paralleled what was going on in the present, and that element was very intriguing to me. It was enjoyable to see both Tully and Kate age throughout the series, grow, and adapt. The last few episodes of the season were extremely climatic and emotional.


If the show had not had so much set up at the beginning I would not have been so invested in the character’s lives. Getting through the first few episodes is well worth it so that you can develop a deeper understanding of the show’s characters and backstories. However, I wish that the show would have kept its emotional appeal consistent from the very first episode.

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Overall I enjoyed this series. The costume and makeup design throughout the shows changing eras and periods were well done. The acting was on point, and Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke both did an incredible job holding up the rest of the cast and fully investing in their character. Both characters had so many layers and depth to them which made them very intriguing and complex.

My Rating

4 out of 5

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Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds …

Alien (1979) Review

Synopsis In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and …

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Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds of aliens that have invaded the colony.

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Release date: July 18, 1986

(USA)Director: James Cameron

Film series: AlienBudget: 18.5 million USD

Screenplay: James Cameron, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett

My Review

With the movie’s title being the plural of aliens, one can expect a lot of aliens to be in this film….. and oh boy are there a lot of aliens in this film. By keeping the same villainous creature in this film but changing the dynamic the film was fresh and just as suspenseful as Alien. As an audience member, we are still learning more about the alien species along with the characters within the film and that kept me engaged and interested.

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There is a lot more action in this film compared to Alien, and while the action scenes were well thought out and orchestrated I found the movie to be copying its formula from the first movie just a bit. For example, the little girl in the film (Newt) takes over the role that Ripley’s cat played in the first film. Ripley feels entitled to protect Newt at all costs, and at the end of the film, she must race against time to save her before the station explodes. Just as she had to do in the first movie to retrieve Jonesy (her cat).

Just as in Alien a crewmember betrays the mission by putting science above the lives of others. I knew that this film would follow the same pattern to some level, and wasn’t surprised at all when Burke did whatever he could to make sure the alien species went back with them for scientific study. Again this plot twist was changed a little bit, in the sense that the Android was not the one to betray them in this film. But at its core Aliens followed very similar plot patterns to its predecessor Alien.
That being said I still found myself engaged and sitting in anticipation all throughout the film, and there was no moment where I became bored or remembered that I was watching a movie.

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My Rating

4/5

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FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis: Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs. First episode date: February 3, 2021 Network: Netflix Program creator: Maggie Friedman Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon My Review: After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into …

The Mule (2018) Review

Synopsis

Broke, alone and facing foreclosure on his business, 90-year-old horticulturist Earl Stone takes a job as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. His immediate success leads to easy money and a larger shipment that soon draws the attention of hard-charging DEA agent Colin Bates. When Earl’s past mistakes start to weigh heavily on his conscience, he must decide whether to right those wrongs before law enforcement and cartel thugs catch up to him.

Release date: December 14, 2018

(USA)Director: Clint Eastwood

Featured song: Don’t Let the Old Man In

Box office: 174.8 million USD

My Review

The story-line of this film kept me entirely interested throughout the entire movie. The three things that stood out to me the most about this film were its well-developed characters, dynamic acting, and subtle use of symbolism. It was also extremely heart wrenching and touching to watch Clint Eastwood act in his last film as a modern “cowboy.”

The characters in this film are well- developed by both incredible acting and a well-written script. I almost forgot I was watching a film at certain points, because the characters completely came to life and made the story their own. Especially Clint Eastwood, it’s easy to see that he put everything he had into his role in this film and it fully paid off.

There is a perfect balance between action, and lifelike events in this film. Keeping it from feeling unrealistic with too much action, or slow moving with not enough excitement. Because of this, the film feels very realistic, and as an audience member I fully understood how the film’s protagonist accidentally stumbles into the drug business and stays in it.

I really enjoyed how this film took place in a modern world, while still holding onto some elements and characteristics of an old western film. I also really enjoyed how the protagonist of this film (Earl Stone) is a twisted kind of hero, and how as an audience member I both sympathized with him and grew frustrated with. My only complaint about this film is knowing it was Clint Eastwood’s farewell to Hollywood.

My Rating

9 out of 10


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Lucas Hagar: The Influence of NArrative Storytelling on Documentaries

In a podcast with Film Riot, Lucas Harger talked in-depth about his filmmaking process as well as the creative cross between narrative film and documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, Lucas has been successful in crossing between editing both documentary and narrative stories to produce unique and creative content. According to Lucas, being able to create …

Dirty Dancing (1987) Review

Synopsis

Baby (Jennifer Grey) is one listless summer away from the Peace Corps. Hoping to enjoy her youth while it lasts, she’s disappointed when her summer plans deposit her at a sleepy resort in the Catskills with her parents. Her luck turns around, however, when the resort’s dance instructor, Johnny (Patrick Swayze), enlists Baby as his new partner, and the two fall in love. Baby’s father forbids her from seeing Johnny, but she’s determined to help him perform the last big dance of the summer.

Release date: August 21, 1987

(USA)Director: Emile Ardolino

Awards: Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature

Location: Lake Lure

My Review

This film has been one of my go to summer movies for years. Its memorable soundtrack, dance numbers, well-rounded acting, and charming dialogue creates the perfect entertaining summer film. Overall, I would consider this film to be light-hearted. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of drama in the plot. However, the portrayal of the film’s plot points are done so in a way that doesn’t ruin the films overall relaxed summer feel. The acting in this film is remarkable, and the dancing goes even beyond that.

My favorite thing about this film is that while it’s listed as a romantic movie, and the plot focuses heavily on the relationship between Baby and Johnny, the plot digs much deeper than that. Unlike most romance based films, I wouldn’t call this film a chick flick. There is way more to this film besides the relationship between its two protagonists. In fact, the film also focuses on the roles of social statues, the relationship between baby and her father, friendship, and what it means to do the right thing. Because “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

This film was shot on location at Lake Lure, which added a lot to the film. The whole environment set up by the filmmakers help to create the nostalgic summer feeling from childhood. The coming of age element to the movies plot will easily make you reminiscent on past summer romances, and what it felt like falling in love for the first time.

The film also captures and embodies the well-versed feel and themes of 80s movies. Any audience member watching this film will easily find themselves transported back in time, and most likely tapping their foot along to the music. My only complaint about this film is that it makes me wish I was a better dancer.

My Rating

9.5/10


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julie taymor: the cross universe of film and theatre

In a recent podcast episode with The Treatment, Julie Taymor discussed her new movie “The Glories” and how she uses storytelling to externalize what characters are feeling on screen. Julie Taymor is a Tony Award-winning director of both theatre and film. Her goal as a creative is to master the fantastical elements of the film …

r-e-s-p-e-c-t on a film set: advice from mimi leder

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Mimi Leder, an American director and producer, gave her best advice for keeping a healthy and productive film set. Mimi’s key piece of advice was to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, and to always show them your appreciation. She pointed out that the cast …

Chicago (2002) Review

Synopsis

Nightclub sensation Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones) murders her philandering husband, and Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), is set to defend her. But when Roxie (Renée Zellweger) also winds up in prison, Billy takes on her case as well — turning her into a media circus of headlines. Neither woman will be outdone in their fight against each other and the public for fame and celebrity.

Release date: December 27, 2002

(USA)Director: Rob Marshall

My Review

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The parallel editing within the plot is unique and an artistic masterpiece. The acting, dance numbers, and singing in this film did not disappoint. My absolute favorite thing about this film is the set and costume designs. The filmmakers excelled at creating a visual experience for the audience through ornate detailing in every single set and costume piece. However, I will say that some musical numbers seemed a little pointless, and overall silly compared to the others.

It is easy to tell that both the filmmakers and actors put everything they had into this film. As usual, Renée Zellweger does a phenomenal job, and her performance in this film is both charming and daunting. Catherine Zeta-Jones shined brightly in her performance as well. Especially in the dance numbers. It was easy to tell Catherine is the better dancer between the two. Both women completely became the characters they portrayed and had outstanding performances.

The plot of this film stays consistently entertaining throughout, and for the most part I would say there is a well established balance between the dialogue and musical numbers. I know this film recreates the musical Chicago in a movie form, and it’s not the movies fault but some songs are way to silly and pointless. These silly musical numbers lost my attention into the film for their whole duration. However, the transitions into and out of the musical numbers were seamless and kept my attention all throughout.

The parallel editing between scenes in this film was extremely unique and I cannot recall ever seeing anything with a similar style pulled off as effortlessly as this film does. The creative liberty taken by the filmmakers was genius and well thought out. For example, the scene with Roxie being used metaphorically and symbolically as a puppet by her lawyer was very expressive.

Overall, this film captures the musical Chicago in a new and creative way. The film is both entertaining and enjoyable to watch. However, I’m not sure if I would ever watch this film again. Once may be enough for me.

My Rating

7.5 out of 10


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working with what you got: Advice from the creators of Faith Based

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, the creators of the film Faith Based (Vincent Masciale, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason), gave constructive advice to filmmakers who think they need to wait till they make it into Hollywood to make their film. The filmmakers discussed how their original plan for the film was to shoot …

Aaron Schneider’s Directing advice from film Greyhound

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Aaron Schneider discussed the things we were forced to learn while shooting Greyhound. Most of the films set was composed of green screens, which had its challenges. Schneider’s main advice is to come up with a detailed and set plan when working with extensive green screens and technology …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He went on to state that as a director it’s okay …

Breaking Bad (2008) Series Review

Synopsis

Mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White thinks his life can’t get much worse. His salary barely makes ends meet, a situation not likely to improve once his pregnant wife gives birth, and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. But Walter is dumbstruck when he learns he has terminal cancer. Realizing that his illness probably will ruin his family financially, Walter makes a desperate bid to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left by turning an old RV into a meth lab on wheels.

First episode date: January 20, 2008

Final episode date: September 29, 2013

Spin-offs: Better Call Saul, Metástasis, Talking Bad

Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama

My Review

This is a phenomenal and consistent series that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. The thing I love most about this series is that its plot seems like that of a book. The show keeps a consistent plot from “cover to cover”, and the direction that the show takes is clearly plotted and planned. Unlike a lot of TV Shows, the show does not lose its direction, and the story-line stays entertaining throughout the entire series because of its unpredictable nature.

There are three things that stood out to me the most in this series- the cinematography, soundtrack, and acting. All three were spot on in this series and set it apart from any other series. The whole creative look of the show totally stole my attention and kept me interested in the series as a whole.

The only bad thing I have to say about this show is that it got a little slow at times. There were a few episodes I had to try harder to get through in order to reach more exciting episodes. However, this was a minor price to pay for such an incredible show. When looking at the bigger picture the slower moments helped to add in some lifelike and realistic elements. The blend of unrealistic events and realistic was perfectly balanced and in sync with one another.

One of my favorite elements of this series was the character development. Jesse and Walter are perfect character foils of each other, and the relationship between the two is extremely interesting to watch. When the series started out Walter was the moral and “good citizen”, however, the two end up switching places by the end of the series. Walter ultimately becomes the perfect representation of everything he fears and despises at the start of the series. However, the way his character redeems himself broke my heart, yet I loved every second.

My Rating

9 out of 10

I would definitely watch this entire series again in the future!

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really… I was alive”

– Walter White

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Judd Apatow: The Role of improvisation in FILMMAKING

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Judd Apatow shared his advice for film directors. Judd had lots of brilliant advice to give, but the principal thing he kept reiterating was the important of improvisation in film-making. He expressed that throughout the entire film-making process he slowly allows the film to come to life. …

Control Your Property- Jim Cummin’s Advice On Distributing Your Own Film

Jim Cummings is an extremely unique director in the sense that he often heads up the distribution of his films and their production. In a recent Podcast with Film Riot, he explains to the listeners just how he goes about accomplishing this. To many filmmakers, the idea of overseeing the distribution of your own films …

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Film Review

Synopsis

Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) takes his men behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Surrounded by the brutal realties of war, while searching for Ryan, each man embarks upon a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage.
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Release dateJuly 24, 1998 (USA)
Budget70 million USD

My Review 

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By far this is one of the best war movies of all time. It’s hard and tear jerking to watch because of how accurate and life like the war scenes are. Something that really adds to the uncomfortable realistic feel of the film is the lack of music. It’s hard to notice when first watching the movie because as an audience member you are so sucked into the action. But if you pay attention during any battle scene, there is absolutely no music playing in the background. In fact, music is used sparingly and only when it adds to the overall emotional impact on the audience. During the bloody war scenes all the audience hears are bullets shooting, men screaming, blood gushing, and orders being given. This makes the audience feel as if they themselves are on the front lines with all the actor’s.

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Another powerful element of this film is the camera work. The cinematography is innovative and creative. However, it’s kept subtle to where you don’t remember your watching a movie on a screen. It feels as if your watching war history in person. A lot of the camera angles are kept eye level, or close to the ground, which adds to this effect. There are very little bird eye shots or hero shots in this film. Which would have only lost the audience’s personal connection into the film. This was a really impactful decision made by the cinematographer of this film.

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This film showcases the darker side of humanity. It allows audience members who have never been on a battle front a chance to experience the realistic horror and intense action. It allows us a look into a world not all of us are familiar with. That makes watching this film such a memorable experience.

My Rating

4.8 out of 5

I recommend everybody watch this film at least once in their life.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) Film Review

Summary

Lloyd Vogel is an investigative journalist who receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers, aka Mr. Rogers. He approaches the interview with skepticism, as he finds it hard to believe that anyone can have such a good nature. But Roger’s empathy, kindness and decency soon chips away at Vogel’s jaded outlook on life, forcing the reporter to reconcile with his own painful past.
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Release date: October 10, 2019 (USA)
Box office: 64.1 million USD
Budget: 25 million USD

My Review

I definitely had different expectations for this film. I knew that Fred Rogers would not be the focus of the film, since Tom Hanks was the supporting actor. However, I did not expect the film to intertwine two worlds by transitions related to Mr. Rogers show. This was one of the most confusing elements of the film. While it was very creative and looked amazing from a visual standpoint. It was hard to tell if the film was taking place in real time or was just another episode of Mr. Rogers show.

The show starts off with Mr. Rogers on set for his show talking about a man named Lloyd. And the movie cuts between the show and Lloyds’s life until finally the two intertwine. Image result for a beautiful day in the neighborhoodThis got even more confusing toward the end of the film when the audience ended back on Mr. Rogers show. The mixing and cutting between the two worlds was unique and interesting, but very confusing in terms of time and space.

The strongest thing about this film was the acting. Tom Hanks did not disappoint, and he fully became the essence of Mr. Rogers. In fact, it was hard to remember that it was an actor portraying Fred Rogers instead of the real deal. I was pleasantly surprised by the other actors of the film. Especially Matthew Rhys and Chris Cooper. I have not seen a lot of movies with either of these actors in it, and they did a fantastic job. However, compared to the scenes with them on screen alongside Tom Hanks, their performance was weak in comparison and less believable.

Overall, I enjoyed the feel of this movie. The color grading, music, and camera style was kept very similar to how an actual show of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Growing up watching the television show, this was very nostalgic for me and helped as an audience member to peak my interest further into the world of the film. Image result for a beautiful day in the neighborhoodHowever, the transitions got confusing as times since as I stated it was hard to tell if the film was in real time or all flashbacks. This is a main reason I would not watch this film again. I enjoyed it, however, for me once is enough.

My Rating

2.5 out of 5

What Did I Just Watch (A Midsommar Review) *Spoiler Alert

Midsommar

Synopsis  

A couple travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its fabled midsummer festival, but what begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
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Release dateJuly 3, 2019 (USA)
Budget$8–10 million
Box office42.3 million USD

My Review: 

I’m sure I am not the only one left heavily confused after watching this film. I am a huge fan of Ari Aster and his work, and I knew going into this film it would most likely be full of deep and dark symbolism and disturbing ideas. After watching this film, it left me confused and in deep thought about what I had just watched. For some people, this is a reason they dislike the film. However, I think there is a lot of strength in a film that resonates with you hours after watching it. This film made me think and reflect on the movie even days after watching it.

The film focuses around Dani and begins with her tragic life. Her sister has committed suicide while also killing Dani’s parents. The audience then meets Dani’s boyfriend Christian, whom we discover has been looking for an excuse to break up with her for almost a year. From the beginning, I disliked Christian and felt bad for Dani, which I think the director was hoping for. Dani then tags along with Christian and his friends to visit his friends hometown in Sweden for the Midsummer ritual.

Ari Aster said he wanted to create a film about a breakup. While Dani and Christian’s relationship was a central part of the plot, I felt that the movie mainly focused on family and the need to feel wanted. From the moment Dani gets the call about the deaths in her family, Dani calls Christian and leans on him more than ever. She becomes severely dependent on Christian, even to where he can’t even get away from her and go to Sweden alone with his friends. Most of the movie I saw Dani as weak and dependent on others for emotional and physical support.

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Once in Sweden things get weird, the characters all experiment with drugs and it seems their hallucinations mix in with the reality of the cult-like society to where the audience doesn’t know what’s real and not real. Towards the beginning of the movie Dani and Christians bear witness to a ritual of the cult in which the older members of the society throw themselves off a cliff to recycle their life before old age sets in. Of all the guests visiting the society, Dani seems disturbed yet intrigued by the ritual. Through a Point of View shot, we see Dani make eye contact with one of the cult leaders and there seems to be some level of connection between the two. One by One Christian’s friends get killed off by the cult members. However, the audience sees Dani become more and more intrigued by the society and everything it represents.

If you notice later in the film, Dani sees the society in the way she did while on drugs without depending on drugs. In comparison, Christian still only sees the society as Dani does while on hallucinogens, which he’s even reluctant to take toward the end of the film. This just goes to show the contrast between the two characters and the separation between the two on their own personal journeys. Dani depends less on Christian and more on the society. During the May Queen ritual is when the audience sees the real change within Dani.

Throughout the film, flowers seem to represent the family unit. There are flowers in the room shown with Dani’s dead parents lying in their bed, and they cover the room in which the visitors stay with paintings. The members of the cult also wear flower headpieces throughout much of the film the clothes they wear even have flowers embroidered on them. However, the audience does not see Dani wear flowers until the May Queen ritual in which she wears a flower crown. It is here when Dani makes a real internal change.

Image result for MidsommarThroughout the ritual process, the audience also sees Dani smiling the most genuine smile she has made in the entire film. Before that she was depressed and often anxious, never smiling for longer than a  few forced seconds. This represents just how much she’s feeling the emotional support and sense of community she has been looking for throughout the entire film.

Things take a real turn once they have declared Dani the May Queen. The audience now sees her covered in a whole robe of flowers, further showcasing her conversion into the strange society. The breaking point for her occurs when she sees Christian having sex with a cult member in a strange ceremonial procreation ritual. Dani begins crying and screaming, visually upset and the cult members surrounding her scream and cry as well. Taking on a load of her emotional burden. It is here that Dani furthers her conversion and begins emotionally depending on the society even more.

The film ends with Dani deciding to send Christian to burn alive in the last ritual of the Midsummer festival. As she watched the temple with Christian inside she at first seems sad and begins crying, and again the society shares in her burden and begins crying and screaming. After a few moments of this the camera then shows a closeup of Dani and she lets out a sickly and disturbing smile. Her smile brings the film full circle and symbolizes her complete conversion into the Swedish cult. Image result for MidsommarShe has finally found what she has been looking for the entire movie and has completely given herself fully to the people and society around her. She has found a new family and one that allows her to depend on them more than Christian ever did.

My Rating:

3.5 out of 5

Overall, I enjoyed watching this film. I liked that it required me to analyze it for its deeper meaning, and I appreciate the uniqueness of this film. However, for me seeing this film once is enough and I don’t see myself urging to watch it soon.