Beau is Afraid stars Joker’s Joaquin Phoenix.
I worry slightly for the casual filmgoers who plan to see ‘Beau is Afraid’ on the big screen. They might expect to get a new horror classic from the auteur director who previously brought us ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Midsommar.’ ‘Beau is Afraid’ can’t fit into just one category. It is more accurately described as a “surrealist nightmare horror comedy.” While that’s a lot of words mashed up into one unique genre, ‘Beau is Afraid’ covers a lot of ground in its 179-minute runtime. It’s strange, outrageous, shocking, terrifying, hilarious, and almost any other adjective you can think of throughout Beau’s extremely peculiar journey to get home.
Beau’s world is terrifying, and it becomes immediately apparent, as the title suggests, why Beau is so afraid. The streets outside his apartment are filled with the most gratuitous crimes taking place in public with little disregard for authority. The only place Beau can find any degree of solace is within the thin walls of his apartment. He lives behind countless locks on the door and a tv to drown out the noises coming from the streets below. Beau is planning a trip home to visit his mother – a relationship we know is fraught based on an early therapy session – and what should potentially be an easy trip is immediately taken off the rails.
Joaquin Phoenix portrays Beau, and the weight of the film is squarely on his shoulders.
Phoenix gives an extremely nuanced performance as the audience views the world with fear through Beau’s unique perspective. Beau goes through many traumatic experiences in a short period. The way Phoenix keeps the character pushing through every obstacle is worthy of immense praise. The supporting cast is also great. It features the likes of Patti LuPone as Beau’s mother and Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, Parker Posey, and more, rounding out some of the characters Beau meets throughout the journey.
Director and writer Ari Aster’s unique talent is on display again.
Those looking for an impressive feat in filmmaking won’t be disappointed. But unfortunately, storytelling is the aspect that is likely to polarize audiences. Some themes and metaphors are obvious, such as the representation of anxiety in a horrifying world. Other questions are not as easily answered. Some of the bold choices the story takes might only sometimes be liked, but they are all ripe for picking apart by those brave enough to take a deep dive into the material.
I give Beau is Afraid 4 out of 5 stars. It is a bold project from an auteur whose previous works have made him a ‘must-see’ director amongst horror enthusiasts. This film will likely divide audiences and alienate those who do not accept what they’re being served. But it’s never boring and is truly incomparable. I found a lot to love through the twisted expedition.