The narrative is all too relatable – an inherently toxic relationship guised under an appearance of love and attachment.
When I sat down to watch Midsommar with my boyfriend of 3 years, I expected an Ari Aster classic that would incite the same eye covering, looking-up-the-ending-because-you-just-can’t take-it-anymore type of plot that Hereditary provided. However, upon watching the movie it became increasingly clear to me that despite its thrilling and fascinatingly disturbing concept, the craftiest aspect of the movie was its illustration of a toxic relationship. The gaslighting, emotional unavailability and fear of letting go is all too realistic.
I am fortunate enough to be in a relationship where this is not the case, but over the past few years I have witnessed many instances of unhealthy relationships taking a toll on both parties involved. The toxicity of a relationship can be made up by seemingly subtle and intricate details. This is especially the case with young couples who are still navigating new relationships and how they deserve to be treated. Dani and Christian’s relationship in Midsommar hit the nail on the head, and probably left many people leaving the theater with some unsettling realizations.
At the beginning of the fim, we see Dani relying on Christian for emotional support amidst a family crisis. Just like any toxic relationship, it takes some time for the viewer to recognize that Christian’s treatment of Dani is questionable. Later, Dani learns at a party (from someone else) that Christian is planning to leave her for a month to travel to Sweden with his friends. Since he has only once in passing mentioned his desire to travel to Sweden, she is reasonably surprised. However, Chrisitan gaslights Dani into believing that she is in the wrong. Frightened by his attitude, she ends up apologizing. The dialogue is so realistic it sounds like the script was taken from a real conversation.
Like many couples, Dani and Christian stay together out of obligation. It can be hard to let go of a relationship, especially one that has lasted multiple years. Such a relationship that is prolonged to an unhealthy duration can result in resentment and emotional unavailability. It can be easy to explain away mistreatment with situational excuses, but taking a step back every once in a while and evaluating how you feel with your partner is necessary. Are their feelings for you clear? Or do you constantly have to decode or turn to google for answers? Do you have to hide your needs to keep peace? Do you feel loved, even when you don’t feel lovable?
A close friend of mine once compared a necessary break up to getting out of bed in the morning. You feel comfortable where you are, and it can be so easy to just put it off. The most difficult part is the act of leaving bed, but once you get up and going it gets much easier. A short burst of pain is always better than being stuck in a prolonged, unhealthy relationship.
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