Beau is Afraid (2023), Director Ari Aster, A24, 5*****: Matthew Alicoon

Beau is Afraid


Running Time: 178 Minutes

Beau is Afraid follows an anxiety ridden individual Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) who embarks on a surreal odyssey to get home to attend his Mother’s funeral. However, on the way Beau confronts his greatest fears.

It was always going to be a difficult task for Ari Aster to follow up the masterpieces of Hereditary and Midsommar. Beau is Afraid is not only a spectacular follow up in the Ari Aster canon, but also a next level splendour of filmmaking that showcases Aster’s skillset to the highest pedigree. There are elements of the narrative that can be confusing and mind-bending at times, therefore coming away from the film will propose a magnitude of questions on what really happened vs what did not happen. However, most importantly each narrative element has a fully reformed purpose for being there. 

As a former A-Level Psychology student, the exploration of themes is richly thought-provoking and the ingenuity of the writing grabs you constantly through particular metaphors. It is unlike any film released this year.

Themes covered included:


Childhood / Generation Trauma

Conditional Love vs Unconditional Love

Nature vs Nurture

Power Imbalance


The exploration of the themes was visually evocative throughout. A crime driven world is presented demonstrating the full force of Beau’s anxiety brilliantly all the way from worrying about drinking mouthwash to a mass serial killer on the loose. The greatest fears you can imagine come to the masses in an extreme way. Unfortunately, discussing the other themes would mean going into more details about the plot and Beau Is Afraid is a film that needs to be experienced to believe. The staggering plot twist will make you rethink about previous events portrayed in the film. Will you have questions? most likely yes but as a conversation piece, there is nothing else out there in the current market for the level of dissection you can have with this film.

Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising, as he has to sustain an eloquently timed anxiety-induced persona throughout and the momentum he carries paves the way for an unforgettable performance. Armen Nahapetian shines wonderfully as the young Beau offering up a silent yet clear pictured performance where there is a true sense of the characters state of mind. The film has breath-taking cinematography from Pawel Pogorzelski, who continuous to dazzle with tremendous sequences particularly a dreamlike sequence in this film. The collaboration between Ari and Pawel is super harmonious, as Beau is Afraid utilises visually sweeping storytelling to create a breath-taking piece of cinema.

As a hybrid and genre buster Beau is Afraid is a perfect matchup of comedy interweaved with nerve dreading horror shrined in an unbelievable devastation. 

Ari Aster is 3 for 3. How does his brain work?

Beau is Afraid is an exquisite showcase of universal themes that will at times have resonance with you as an audience member. It jarringly asks a lot of questions and leaves a good proportion open to interpretation. However, this level of filmmaking is not something we are used to seeing, therefore Beau is Afraid gets my upmost round of applause.

Beau is Afraid is a film that has to be experienced to believe and it is truly the best comparison to marmite.


Joaquin Phoenix as Beau Wassermann

Armen Nahapetian as Young Beau Wassermann

Patti Lupone as Mona Wassermann

Amy Ryan as Grace

Nathan Lane as Roger

Parker Posey as Elaine Bray

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