‘Beau is Afraid’: I Would Be Too


“Beau is Afraid” poster (Courtesy of A24)

By Ethan Blume, Arts Writer


There is no way to get me less interested in a movie than to tell me it is over two hours long. I yearn for the days when a movie could be 65 minutes and pass as a feature. However, this growing trend of three-hour-long horror movies has intrigued me, from “Midsommar” to “Terrifier 2.”

Enter “Beau is Afraid,” the new film written and directed by Ari Aster, director of “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. I was excited the second I heard about this film, a “horror” comedy, a three-hour long “nightmare odyssey” about a man who is just trying to get to his mother’s funeral. I am going to attempt a spoiler-free recap but due to the nature of the film that may prove difficult. If you want to go in blind — which I highly recommend — maybe skip the next section.

The Nightmare Odyssey

Beau is a man in his late 40s, living away from home in a small apartment in the middle of an incredibly dangerous city. On top of this, he is also suffering from intense anxiety. He is afraid that everything can and will kill him. Things spiral out of control for him after someone steals his keys, leading to him being unable to visit his mother. The day after his keys got stolen he attempts to call his mom again, which is when he learns she has literally just died a very gruesome death. This leads to him being hit by a car and essentially kidnapped. Nothing goes right for Beau. 

This movie is not for the faint-hearted. It is three hours of a full-on barrage of the senses, with little to no reprieve. Beau spends the entire film disheveled, partially unsure of what is happening, or if what is happening is real or a delusion. You really sympathize with Beau. I just wanted him to get home and have time to relax without something going horribly wrong. You get those moments interspersed, but they are few and far between. 

A Match Made in Heaven

Ari Aster and Joaquin Phoenix are a match made in heaven. The direction and writing of the film are masterful, and Phoenix’s performance is one of my favorites I’ve seen all year. It’s a beautiful, terrible and sharp commentary that lands on all fronts in my mind. It’s also one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. Everyone in the theater was laughing pretty much nonstop, which is incredibly impressive for a three-hour film.

I think it is necessary to be three hours in the same way “Inland Empire” needs to be three hours. Both films, which are fairly similar, put you in the shoes of the main character and want you to feel the totality of the world they are living in, in all of its excruciating nightmarishness.

Who is it For?

I can’t say I would recommend everyone go and see “Beau is Afraid,” but if you are at all interested in Aster’s style or in watching someone be manipulated and lied to for hours and hours, definitely check this out. I seriously think this is one of the best movies I have seen in theaters in a while, probably since “The Northman.” I would love to see Aster continue in this direction. I am so glad that people are allowed to make movies like this, with budgets like this that get wide theatrical releases. See this movie in theaters if you get the chance: it was made for it.


[email protected]