Beau is Afraid: A jaw dropping nightmare comedy about mommy issues


Photo courtesy of A24

Beau Is Afraid was widely released to theaters on April 21. The movie currently has a 70% on rotten tomatoes, and has received over three million in the box office.

I didn’t know what I was in for when I went to see “Beau Is Afraid.” I knew it would be weird and scary, but I did not expect what I saw. When I got home, I had to watch Paddington just to calm myself down.

Director Ari Aster is known for his unnerving horror movies, with films such as “Hereditary” (2018) and “Midsommar” (2019). With that resumé of horror under his belt, it’s surprising this is the movie that made me the most uncomfortable. During the whole movie, my skin was crawling from either cringe or fear. There is a scene where Beau [Joaquin Phoenix], runs around in fear naked for a solid minute and that was the most normal scene of the movie. “Beau Is Afraid” is a three-hour long neverending nightmare horror comedy, but still, I couldn’t look away.

The film follows Beau, a character who is believed to have schizophrenia. The plot revolves around him trying to get home to visit his mother, but the trip turns into a hellish nightmare. Reactions online have been mixed; people either love it or hate it.

When I went to see this, someone walked out in the middle of the movie. When the movie ended, my brother and I looked at each other, looked back at the screen and just sat there letting the credits roll. I overheard the couple behind me talking about refunds and I saw a guy in the front stand up and applaud before quickly realizing no one else would join him. The movie feels like it was made for an audience of one: the director and, honestly, I’m here for that. I thought the result was pretty decent.

The movie is ambitious, taking risks I’ve never seen another director dare take. There is a phenomenal sequence that takes place in the middle of the woods with a traveling theater group. I can’t go into much more detail about what I saw partly because of spoilers, but mostly because of how disturbing parts of this movie are.

That leads to its biggest flaw: the failed balance between what is real and what isn’t. Awful things happen in this movie, but at a point, the events are so cartoonishly disturbing it starts to leave audiences confused as to what the message of the movie is.

Ari Aster has said on record that he “likes that it seems to be something that people have to contend with and wrestle with,” but a lot of audiences don’t. It is made clear at points during the movie that Beau is in a state of hallucination, but it is unclear when he leaves and reenters the real world, or if the whole movie is one giant hallucination and the joke is on us. The beginning of the movie is the only part I can confidently say took place in the real world.

So, is this movie worth seeing in theaters? Absolutely. This movie takes shock value to a whole new level and it’s even better with a group of friends. However, if you’re not into horror movies I would steer far away from this one. And maybe don’t go with your mom.