Beau is Afraid That You’ll Read This and Agree

Joaquin Phoenix is an anxiety-ridden man who confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, odyssey to his hometown for his mother's funeral in Beau is Afraid
Beau is Afraid
Joaquin Phoenix is an anxiety-ridden man who confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, odyssey to his hometown for his mother’s funeral in Beau is Afraid Beau Is Afraid revolves around the titular Beau, a middle-aged man played by a gray-haired, bald-pated, moderately obese Joaquin Phoenix who seems to live in an almost apocalyptically run-down hell hole of a city.


Beau is Afraid is called a horror comedy and don’t get me wrong, It’s a bleak black comedy with its obvious cringeworthy slapstick and set-ups but honestly, it’s far more tediously horrendous than hilarious. It definitely has horror elements with its strikingly graphic violent scenes, complete with an impending sense of doom, dread, and despair, not to mention a jump scare or two. It’s a drama of the mind with its use of personal therapy ideals being dramatized in front of the captive audience of Beau by the traveling acting troop in the woods. The distinction between all three is evident but taking the step to call this movie all three is something the audience should decide due to all the themes and tropes Aster chooses to play with. I can’t continue without mentioning the Freudian slip that kept showing. It was a blatant throughline in the psychodrama revolving around the trauma-inducing obsessive relationship between Beau and his mother. This made itself evident in his mother warning him that should he ever decide to have sex with a woman he would surely die, as it is a condition that runs in his family. It’s evident in one line. 
“I am so sorry for what your daddy passed down to you,” – Monna Wasserman, in Beau is Afraid
These are Monna Wasserman’s words to her son Beau and they were delivered in the classic Ari Aster style, as his past two films also explore generational and familial trauma, and how it affects the child. Aster often uses metaphors to portray those themes, so it’s safe to say that the core of Beau Is Afraid is a lot like the short film. RELATED: BEAU IS AFRAID OF ITS ORIGINS AND YOU’LL LOVE TO KNOW WHY All the physical, paranormal, and psychological barriers keeping Beau from visiting his mother just symbolize the impossible internal and emotional struggle of coming to terms with his unresolved and poorly actualized trauma.


Ultimately Beau is not to blame for any of the terrible things in his life. It feels like Aster is absolving himself of his hang-ups and issues through Beau. Who seems like a hopeless individual who has to call his therapist or his mother anytime something goes wrong. He’s a child who has no grasp on his own life, which means you are watching this poor victim being manipulated and victimized over and over again. RELATED: Cocaine Bear: Far From Practical But Surprisingly Factual His reaction to it is incredibly passive and that is a lot for an audience to have to carry psychologically and isn’t true to the way that anyone’s life is, making it easy to connect with at times because he too (just like the audience) is a passenger in Beau’s existence. It indeed equates to trauma porn in broad strokes. [transition] It’s more of a trauma dump. This can push audiences away because you can’t sympathize with his suffering, Beau is Afraid is setting him up to be as the biblical figure Job (Jobe). Beau never blames his mother, as Job never blames God, despite them being the spruce of all their issues.


Beau is Afraid
All in all, it seems like, the studio gave him carte blanche which translates to… “You’re a film auteur, filmmaker” which is a word-soup way of saying we don’t get what you do, but audiences do. So here’s 35 million. (Yeah, you read that right 35 million. Which I think was going into the actor’s salaries and some of the equally beautifully imaginative albeit sometimes strikingly Cronenbergian grotesque CGI). Though the situations are beyond belief everyone plays their roles very grounded. There was a perfect balance of the mundane lying in plain sight amongst the extraordinary. If I haven’t said it before Beau Is Afraid is beautiful. The use of color and movement to draw your eyes to specific places on the screen to highlight easter eggs or warn you of a certain action or even person in the background was masterfully executed. At moments it felt like I was watching the film student that was awarded the grant to argue in defense of their thesis project at AFI by simply taking fire to the final frames and then expecting the audience to accept what we’ve experienced and appreciate the journey because in their mind it was more important than the conclusion. RELATED: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review – This Movie Is Chaotic Good Choices are made in this film that may have art informing life as even critics walked out at the end not scratching their heads in confusion, but rather sucking their teeth in disappointment while storming out of the theater. But that may be the point. I think everyone involved with this film knew the feeling they wanted to invoke and will wear the cinema score scarlet letter “F” as a badge of accomplishment. Some scenes and interactions are visually stunning sensory experiences and others are so disturbing that they do more than get under your skin they lay eggs in your mind and they hatch into nightmarishly grotesque subconscious fears that are unforgettably visual and tactile. Beau is Afraid is a truly difficult film to review. But, intentionally unique cult movies always are. I think I’ll need to see it one (or two) more times to stand by this very review. And I will, and you will hear from me again. If not within a week after its worldwide release on April 21st then a year from now to adjust my rating which coincidentally is where we are. Maybe DO NOT SEE Beau is Afraid. Perhaps it’s a white privilege grim fairy tale lullaby told by an incel with unresolved mother issues. The question has to be asked, “Who is this film for?” It feels like he experienced relatively no trauma compared to the characters within his stories so he looks at what would be considered trauma and amplifies it 20 times over.


I first went into this without foreknowledge of Beau, I was aware of what happened in his two previous films. I’ve dissected both and appreciated how Aster told a story. A recurring theme in Ari Aster’s work is an unimaginable loss. The director often explores the aftermath of personal loss and how individuals cope with it. His past films demonstrate how trauma and grief can manifest in unexpected and terrifying ways, and how the journey to find closure and meaning is fraught with twists and turns. It seemed that this was not the case with this film. The final act of Beau Is Afraid ramped up until we had nowhere to go but the inevitable which is the true end… death. RELATED: Full River Red Movie Review: Zhang Yimou’s Historical Whodunit is a Trip to appreciate in 2023 Beau is Afraid is his third feature-length film, and though it is a minute shy of three hours it didn’t feel like it. It had a solid opening, and it made me laugh, albeit some may have been cringe laughter or laughter out of confusion, it was never in spite of the film or the storytelling, or the performances. The biggest problem with this film was the final act. The anti-climatic crescendo of a final act. Our very own Kevin Fenix said it best, “Ari Aster, deliberately made us watch him set up all these dominos with the express intention of not knocking a single one down.” I may sound pretentious, or just angry but I’ll leave you with this spoiler. Not a prediction, not a well-informed guess, but a genuine spoiler. His dad was a dick. A literal dick. Once again the sage-like wisdom of our very own Kevin Fenix rings true for the shared reaction to the ending of this film, “I sat through three hours for a dick joke?” Yeah, Beau is Afraid may be the most elaborate, and expensive “dick joke” to have ever been told. ‘Beau is Afraid’ is now playing in limited theaters with a wide release on April 21.

About Beau is Afraid

Distribution: A24 Production companies: A24, Square Peg Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Kylie Rogers, Denis Ménochet, Parker Posey, Zoe Lister-Jones, Armen Nahapetian, Julia Antonelli, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Richard Kind, Hayley Squires Director-screenwriter: Ari Aster Producers: Lars Knudsen, Ari Aster Executive producers: Len Blavatnik, Danny Cohen, Timo Argillander, Elisa Alvares, Ann Ruark Director of Photography: Pawel Pogorzelski Production designer: Fiona Crombie Costume designer: Alice Babidge Music: Bobby Krlic Editor: Lucian Johnston Visual effects supervisor: Louis Morin Animation: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña Casting: Jim Carnahan Rating: R

Synopsis: a decades-spanning surrealist horror set in an alternate present. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Beau, an extremely anxious but pleasant-looking man who has a fraught relationship with his overbearing mother and never knew his father. When his mother dies, he makes a journey home that involves some wild supernatural threats. What did you think of Beau Is Afraid and our insight concerning the theories surrounding the film? Did you already watch it? Do you have tickets to watch Beau is Afraid this weekend? Let us know in the comments and on social media! KEEP READING: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania Now on Digital and Releases in 4K Ultra, BD, DVD in May


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Daniel Jerome

Freelance Journalist Content Producer, Onscreen Talent, Moderator, Host, and Resident Blovian (Black-Whovian) for the Illuminerdi. Carefully written fact-checked essay in the streets, and irresponsibly unmoderated comments section in the sheets. Tweet it, repeat it, you can delete it; don't give a flub, 'cause we will all see it.