'Beau is Afraid', should you be?

Writer and director Ari Aster's new film, "Beau is Afraid," is just as disturbing as his previous works, "Hereditary" and "Midsommar," but this project rejects a single genre definition.

This is a surreal, demented, nihilistic, funny, and fantastic film that pulls at your heart strings in moments.

A man named Beau tries to visit his mother on the anniversary of his father's death, only to have his world turned upside down by a terrible chain of events.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Beau, a man who suffers from extreme anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His PTSD stems from a long-suppressed childhood memory, which has become a re-occurring nightmare.

Trailer courtesy of A24

Phoenix gives a vulnerable performance with his timid attitude and subtle body language which makes you wish you could help him through his hurdles. He also had to transform his physical appearance, in this case gaining significant weight. You may recall that for his role in "Joker", he slimmed down to almost dangerous levels.

The film's themes are very much in line with Aster's previous works, which deal with traumatic events and dysfunctional families.

Aster continues his dream-like style for the look of the film. Scene to scene feels like a flowing river of unexpected imagination. Aster's shot choices are specific and purposeful. You see exactly what he wants you to see, and you can sense his confidence in every fame.

One thing we learn early on, is that Beau's dad died on his parents' wedding night when he was conceived. This, apparently due to a heart murmur, a genetic condition that has been passed down to Beau, according to his mom.

This leads to Beau remaining celibate for fear of death.

Beau has very little family, with his mom seemingly the only one. She loves him to the point of controlling and manipulating him. Causing him to lose all confidence in everyday mundane life.

This mainstream film is the most blunt, in-your-face, startling film I've seen in recent years. The last one being Aster's "Midsommar."

After missing his flight and being robbed, Beau learns of his mother's supposed death from a freak chandelier accident, which motivates him to get to her funeral no matter what.

The following events are unexpected and darkly funny, even when you think it's inappropriate to laugh.

A few highlights from Beau's journey include:

  • being hit by a truck while naked
  • being "adopted" by a family still grieving their son who died in war.
  • witnessing a teenage girl die from drinking house paint after refusing to drink it with her.
  • being tracked by a silent war vet with homicidal tendencies from PTSD.
  • comes across a play in the woods where he hallucinates the play being about him.
  • reconnects with a childhood crush and makes love with her causing her death.
  • and HUGE SPOILER…he learns his dad is alive and a literal giant living male genitalia that lives in his mother's attic along with his long-lost twin from his nightmare memory.

His mom, a ruthless CEO with too much money, was alive the whole time and wanted to test how much he loved her. 

At this point, Beau is destroyed mentally, and literally drowns in an ocean of unwarranted guilt.

The film ends with you questioning what was real, what was imagined, and what does any of it mean.

As outrageous as it is, the film holds core emotions that we've all felt before.

I found the film exciting and a true experience. Aster made the film he wanted to make. A weird and very specific point of view that feels like we're invading someone's brain.

So, Beau is Afraid, should you be? Yes, in the best way possible.

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