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  • Writer's pictureJack Kritzer

Review: Beau Is Afraid

Following the sudden death of his mother, a mild-mannered but anxiety-ridden man confronts his darkest fears as he embarks on an epic, Kafkaesque odyssey back home.

Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Parker Posey, Kylie Rogers, Patti LuPone, Zoe Lister-Jones, Julia Antonelli, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Michael Gandolfini, Armen Nahapetian, Richard Kind

‘Beau is Afraid’ immerses you in a mind-bending nightmare, never giving the viewer the chance to breathe. Ari Aster’s signature sense of dread and phenomenal imagery is at its best, making this flawed, agoraphobic odyssey so very worth watching.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Beau Wassermann, a man who lives every day of his life in fear of essentially everything. Phoenix is phenomenal in the film, he sells the emotional turmoil that the character is constantly suffering through in a way that is both melancholic, but also sometimes hilarious. It’s a joy to hear that Aster and Phoenix have at least one more collaboration planned, since the duo are clearly great together.

This film strays quite far from the last two films Aster has made so far. While ‘Beau is Afraid’ is riddled with psychological horror elements, and you’re never not on the edge of your seat, this film is much more of a dark comedy than anything else. The film is absolutely hilarious, and introduces us more to Aster’s twisted sense of humor. There are countless great laughs to be had during this film that’ll surely be unexpected for fans of Aster’s earlier work.

The astounding visuals of the film have to be talked about, since they’re some of the best we’ve seen from Aster so far. He knows how to get under your skin with a single shot that will linger in your mind long after the credits roll. There’s an entire animated sequence in the middle of the film that is nothing short of hypnotizing, and is one of the most creative things I’ve ever seen put to the screen. The phenomenal sound design of the film works in tandem with the visuals to create a truly unsettling experience that’s meant for theatrical viewing.

While this is without a doubt an extremely original and creative film, there seems to be so many ideas meshing together that by the end of the film the viewer is left with much more questions than answers. There’s a lot left up to viewer interpretation which makes thinking back on the events of the film much more confusing to think about. It’s almost like trying to piece together a puzzle, but the puzzle box is mixed with pieces from four different puzzles. It’s near impossible to put everything together, and while some may appreciate the vagueness of certain events of the film, I ultimately found it to be a detriment to it.

‘Beau is Afraid’ demands to be seen on the biggest screen that you’re able to find. While this will surely be a polarizing film, you can’t help but appreciate the unfiltered insanity that Aster cooked up here, and I’m looking forward to the years of interesting discussion that this film will surely spark.

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