Film Review – Beau is Afraid (2023)

Title – Beau is Afraid (2023) 

Director – Ari Aster (Hereditary) 

Cast – Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Patti LuPone, Parker Posey

Plot – Neurotic and lonely Beau Wassermann (Phoenix) heads out on a journey to attend his mother’s funeral after a sudden accident claims her life. On this journey Beau comes face to face with his past fears and new fears that attempt to halt him in his tracks, much like many instances in his troubled adult life. 

“I’m sure you’ll do the right thing, sweetheart”

Review by Eddie on 03/05/2023

If you think you’ve seen it all before, I can with great confidence say that after witnessing indie darling/horror upstart Ari Aster’s newest epic Beau is Afraid, you’re likely going to come away with a realization that you still had more to behold thanks to one of the most bizarre, self-indulgent, original and unfortunately frustrating movie going experiences of the modern era. 

Like Synecdoche New York, Being John Malkovich and The Odyssey joined forces in one seriously deranged tale of one man’s quest to overcome his mommy issues and finally find peace in a world that seems hellbent on ensuring his life is a living breathing example of misery incarnate, Afraid shares a similar bloodline to Aster’s previous two adored horror entries Hereditary and Midsommar but if you head into this indescribable feature expecting the same tone and scares as those two modern day genre classics you’re going to be left hugely disappointed by Aster’s newest venture, much like many unexpecting audience members will be left with jaws on the floor at what they just partook in. 

If you’ve seen the trailers for Afraid (once known as Disappointment Boulevard) you do get a feeling that the journey of Joaquin Phoenix’s man-child Beau Wassermann is going to be one that blurs the line between what is real and what is not and there are certainly horrific moments within this tragi-comedy that are like nightmares come to life, especially in an extended early stretch of the film where Beau’s life in the big city is hilariously and dementedly portrayed but there’s really nothing that can prepare one for where Afraid is heading and how it does so. 

At it’s core a simple tale about a boy/man whose life has been shaped and weighed down by mental issues caused by his upbringing at the hands of his single parent mother, Afraid is never once simply told as Phoenix is thrust into wild situation from wild situation that includes home care under the watchful eye of Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan’s irksomely nice couple, a run in with a nomadic theatre troupe and a confrontation with his past, present and future and while everything that happens in Aster’s tale is handsomely crafted and sometimes undeniably effective, far too much of Afraid doesn’t hit with much of its self-indulgent three hour runtime feeling like a filmmaker allowed to take things too far with little care or thought for how viewers may feel about what they are partaking in. 

Front and center throughout is also a curiously off the boil performance from the usually great Phoenix. 

Likely playing things exactly how Aster wanted him too, Phoenix is left a mumbling, bumbling and gawking mess as the 50 something Wassermann and while early on his demeanor and mannerisms are tolerable and even understandable in certain respects, after a few hours Phoenix’s turn begins to grate much like the film as a whole and while you lay in hope that Wassermann will shake himself from his pitiful way of life and the film will make everything ok in its final legs, come the films long-winded and unsatisfactory finale (the first time Aster hasn’t knocked his ending out of the park) you question more than ever just what on earth Aster was hoping to achieve here? 

A likely candidate for a future cult classic that at the very least will cause much debate amongst the film community both now and into the future, Afraid still showcases a director we know to be a serious talent but there’s far too much at play here that misses to call Afraid anything but a curious and unwieldly misstep that’s reason for being is one big mystery. 

Final Say – 

Beau is Afraid is at the very least a unique and unpredictable experience but its excessive runtime, painful protagonist and unnecessary components combine to create an often arduous journey that may be expertly put together for the big screen but can’t help save an indulgent exercise from its cold and hard to enjoy self. 

2 tins of paint out of 5    

2 responses to “Film Review – Beau is Afraid (2023)

    • Cheers mate. This is the first time in a long time I didn’t enjoy a Phoenix performance, just felt wrongly directed to be honest. I had high hopes for this one, really intrigued to see how its judged down the line.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s