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Beau is Afraid (2023) Review

This is a review for the 2023 movie “Beau is Afraid”. From the director of “Midsommar” and “Hereditary”, “Beau is Afraid” is an absurdist horror which provokes a lot of thought.

What is Beau is Afraid about?

Beau is Afraid is a movie about Beau, a middle-aged man who lives alone in a terrible neighbourhood. We are introduced to Beau during a session with his therapist; where it becomes clear that he suffers from terrible mommy issues. After a series of terrible, absurdist events; Beau finds himself having to cancel his plans to fly out to visit his mother. Naturally, she doesn’t take this well. Just as things don’t seem like they can get any worse, Beau’s mother ends up dying in a tragic accident and Beau must now travel to her funeral.

What follows is a series of absurdist episodic events. We are introduced to a very colourful cast of freaks and weirdos, who help or hinder Beau in his journey. We’re taken on a journey through Beau’s psyche, as we explore his trauma and his guilt. It’s a movie that is humorous at times, horrific at others and absurdist at all times.

What are the themes of Beau is Afraid?

There is a lot of symbolism present within Beau is Afraid. It’s a long movie and it explores a lot, but the main focuses appear to be on guilt and on anxiety. It’s unclear how much of the movie is real, and how much of it is in Beau’s mind. My personal interpretation is that we’re seeing a depiction of what Beau sees; an anxious, “worst case scenario” view of the world. Beau’s neighbourhood, for example, is a brutal place where he has to run to his door to prevent anyone from killing him on his way home. In one scene, he leaves his door unlocked for two minutes; and a gang of criminals break into his house. This is completely absurd, but it is a manifestation of a very real sensation of catastrophizing.

The other key aspect is the exploration of Beau’s guilt. He has clearly been abused by his mother, but feels undying loyalty to her and is motivated by the idea of not humiliating himself, and her. Without spoiling anything, the final scene of this movie is a very clear manifestation of this theme; as we see Beau’s guilt towards all of his previous actions.

Beau is Afraid (2023) Review

This movie left me in a state that very few movies have. A state where if somebody asks me, “is this a good movie?” – my answer is “I don’t know”. This is a long movie, clocking in at three hours, and the plot meanders through absurd scenario. It all feels dispensable, but it also all feels masterfully crafted. I enjoyed every part of this movie and every “episode” in the epic was worth it. Yet, as a sum of its parts, it feels lacklustre. The absurdity of the movie never lets up; which is part of the movie’s charm – but it does kill off a lot of tension and make it difficult to care after the two hour mark. It’s entertaining, it’s artistic, but something’s missing.

Every actor, Joaquin Phoenix and Nathan Lane especially, puts on a very great performance and the cinematography is beautiful throughout. The first hour of this movie is bubbling with artistic vision and creativity, but it does just fizzle out a bit from there. The world that Ari Aster creates is evil and cruel, but it becomes a bit more restrained in the second act, as the pace slows down a bit.

Is this another Babylon?

A lot of people have compared this movie to Damien Chazelle’s “Babylon”. “Beau is Afraid” is Aster’s third feature film and is supposed to be a story that he’s always wanted to tell. It truly seems like the studios stepped back and gave him the reins. “Babylon” was a similar story for Chazelle who was given the chance to make his Hollywood epic. Both movies are about three hours and both have been criticised for being too long and over-indulgent. “If the studio had stepped in, these movies would’ve been better,” is a common complaint.

While I do think that both movies could’ve benefitted from some time in the editing room; I don’t agree with this complaint. It’s so rare that we get to see an artist’s full vision. While I don’t think “Beau is Afraid”, or “Babylon” are perfect; I’d rather have a hundred of these movies than corporate nonsense like Quantumania.

“Beau is Afraid”, like “Babylon”, is a box office flop. It’s still yet to release in the UK (officially out on Friday), but so far, it looks like a commercial failure and one of the worst performances for an A24 movie. It is disappointing that the public have no interest in Ifthese weirdo movies, though not exactly surprising.

Check out our full review for Babylon here.

Who should see this movie?

If you like artsy movies, I’d encourage you to check this out. It’s long-winded, but the episodic nature should make this a bit more accessible come streaming release. It’s a well-crafted movie and certainly not a disappointment from Aster. However, if you’re expecting an easy-going, fun time; you might not find what you’re looking for here.

This was a review for the 2023 movie “Beau is Afraid”. Did you enjoy this movie, or did it leave you hungry for paint? Let us know in the comments below.

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