Beau is Afraid (2023)

Beau is Afraid (2023)

Movie Details

Movie: Beau is Afraid (2023)
Director: Ari Aster
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix Patti LuPone Amy Ryan
Genre: Horror/Comedy
Release date: 14 April 2023
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
Languages: English
Duration: 2 Hour 59 Minutes


Beau is Afraid (2023)


Ari Aster’s previous acclaimed films Solstice and The Horrible Legacy can easily be categorized as a horror genre, while they rely on an oppressive atmosphere with overlap into psychological or social themes rather than classic scares. The novel, on the other hand, is essentially not horror – scares are completely absent, and instead of spreading horror, it is about inducing a distressing feeling in line with the experience of the main character. Horror fans looking forward to another downright scary piece by Aster may be disappointed, as He’s Afraid meets the standards of a more psychological thriller, with distinctly surreal elements in addition. However, one essential connection with Aster’s previous films is nevertheless offered – the new film also conveys a dive into a fragmented mind brimming with ambivalent and unexplained themes instead of focusing quite moderately on one consistently elaborated motif.

This is a very personal topic for Aster, although he talks about his great relationship with his mother in interviews. It’s based on his 2011 short called Simply Beau. The plot of the seven-minute film about a neurotic man who is about to visit his mother when someone steals the keys to his apartment is covered in the first of four chapters of the current feature film.

He is Afraid: Beau, an eccentric good man, has a hard time surviving in a world that seems very hostile to him, and although he tries to treat everyone with exaggerated respect, it does not lead to happiness. He walks through streets full of unpleasant or downright dangerous people, lives in an inhospitable apartment building, and the only consolation is visits from a therapist. It is there that the narrative begins, and we quickly learn that the source of Beau’s insecurities is his relationship with his mother. “If you were thirsty but the water from the well made you sick, would you go back to the same well and expect the water to be fine?” the therapist asks a suggestive question in response to Beau going to visit his mother again.

Anxious, detached Beau is fixated on his mother, who is emotionally blackmailing him. The passive non-hero subsequently learns that his mother has tragically died, and against his will finds himself on a path of inner transformation. It would seem that now he is finally free to explore the world, but the binding feelings of guilt still prevail. In just a few moments, Aster perfectly succeeds in conveying the feeling that an emotionally abused person is just an observer of his own life, in which he can influence almost nothing. At the same time, Beau only learns in retrospect how the narrative constructed by his parents does not actually make sense and that his self-blame is only related to the educational strategy of the controlling mother.

The strictly structured narrative can be divided into four parts and a final addendum, while it is disappointing that the bar set in the introduction cannot be maintained until the end of the three-hour footage. It is certainly inflated in the sense that many scenes could be changed or eliminated, and this would only have a minimal impact on the sound; but at the same time, the film never becomes downright boring or abrasive, and each sequence is fascinating in a different way. Perhaps the conclusion drowned in the skeletal dialogues would deserve to be aired a little, so the viewer will see the emotional peaks a little earlier. But you are worth it.

Whether we’re watching Beau’s sojourn with a kind-hearted family reminiscent of Misery Won’t Die, a theatrical meta-performance in the vein of Hamlet, or a later encounter with the disturbingly instinctual components of his personality, Aster, in collaboration with his regular cinematographer Paweł Pogorzelski, creates masterfully composed images, often using long takes emphasizing Beau’s indecisiveness and inability to deal with the moment. In addition, Aster tastefully inserts many darkly humorous jokes, thanks to which you will probably laugh a few times while watching – but in the spirit of Beau’s psyche, the laughter will be somewhat guilty.

The protagonist’s jumping in time reveals the dreamlike, and therefore non-causal logic of most of the events, which will certainly be challenging (even annoying) for some viewers, but the result is a Kaufmanian labyrinth of an impoverished mind. You might also think of titles like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Green Knight, Men, Mother!, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or the recent Whale and White Noise. You can completely fall for all these films, or you can immediately condemn them, but neither can be guaranteed – and this also applies to Aster’s new film.

Play trailer The result defies unambiguous interpretations, although, after several viewings, followers of psychoanalytical interpretations would certainly come up with a plausible explanation for all the symbols. However, one can emotionally and experientially connect to the film very well and go through Beau’s story with personal interest despite all the detours and apparent nonsense – something like Iñárritu’s Bardo could only dream of. The longest and also the most expensive film of the A24 studio deserves attention, but it is necessary to approach the Kafkaesque mix of psychological torment and surrealistic ordeal with great caution.

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