“Beau is Afraid” and you are too


The latest A24 horror movie release, “Beau is Afraid,” is something of a three-hour, drug-induced fever dream that will leave most viewers feeling both afraid and confused.

Directed by Ari Aster, director of “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” “Beau is Afraid” follows the anxiety-ridden Beau, played by Joaquin Phoenix, as he attempts to travel across the country to get to his mother’s funeral, played by Patti LuPone. Along the journey, Beau must confront his darkest fears and anxieties as they come to life around him. This includes surviving a grieving and strange family, embarking on a path that has his life flash before his eyes through the woods, and finally confronts his mother even in her death.

Phoenix puts on an excellent performance of Beau, making the audience feel bad for him, but also uncomfortable in his disposition. The whole movie is told from his point of view, often leaving doubt and blurring the lines between what is real and what is imaginary.

The narrative results in a dark and comedic twist on a classic epic that follows one hero in his quest for valor—all the other side characters are seemingly random and are simply steps to the next adventure on his quest.

However, it appears those that try to help him tend to have more obstacles than acting as a helping hand.

This twist on the epic appears to personify our anxieties and what happens when we let our anxieties consume us. It also comments on the guilt we feel over things that are trivial, and how that leads us to ignore the larger issues.

There is a consistent thread running through the movie that Beau must confess his guilt. What for, though, remains unclear until the very end.

The plot and setting serve to highlight stark juxtapositions between light and dark, night and day, in a world of extremes. In doing so, the movie often takes something that the average person may see as trivial inconveniences and enlarges the issue, creating a feeling of unease within Beau and the audience.

The movie plays on and tricks the senses of the audiences. One moment, you think you are viewing one situation, but you are actually experiencing another with beautiful graphics and smooth cuts that act as flashbacks.

There is an emphasis on sound in this movie, starting from the very beginning that shows his birth, to the very end. This is meant to immerse the audience and disorient them.

I recommend this movie to lovers of magical realism in the vein of Kafka, but beware that this is not your typical horror-comedy. Enter with the sense that what you are seeing and hearing may not actually reflect reality, that you have entered a sphere of magical realism, and realize you may leave with more questions than answers.