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This nightmare comedy dives into your worst fears. You could love it and you can hate it, but you should really see Beau is Afraid.

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Director(s) Ari Aster
Screenplay By Ari Aster
Based On N/A
Date Released (In Theaters) April 21, 2023
Genre(s) Comedy
Duration 3 Hours
Content Rating R
Noted Cast
Beau Wassermann Joaquin Phoenix
Mona Wassermann Patti LuPone
Mona Wassermann (Young) Zoe Lister-Jones
Grace Amy Ryan
Roger Nathan Lane
Elaine Bray Parker Posey
The Therapist Stephen McKinley Henderson

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links which, if a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Film Summary

Ari Aster’s last two films, “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” have already reached iconic status in the horror genre. The writer/director has secured his place as an anticipated filmmaker, so film enthusiasts were excited when news came out that his next venture would be a “nightmare comedy” starring Joaquin Phoenix. An adventurous filmmaker collaborating with one of Hollywood’s most adventurous actors in a project described as a “Jewish Lord of the Rings, but [Beau’s] just going to his mom’s house” wasn’t one to miss. The result is “Beau is Afraid,” a sprawling 3-hour anxiety attack about a mild-mannered yet constantly paranoid man named Beau. This film is divisive. Depending on who you are, this film will humor you, horrify you, shock you, anger you, and maybe- just maybe- you can relate to Beau’s journey.

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“Beau is Afraid” indulges in your worst nightmares, anxieties, and most dreaded hypothetical questions. This is not a film to be explained but experienced. A written summary will not do it justice, but here’s the premise.

The film begins with Beau at his therapist’s office, explaining he’s about to visit his mother; the therapist essentially gives Beau a new medication and sends him on his way. Beau lives in a crime-ridden city where people are blatantly getting murdered and running around naked on the streets. His apartment is crummy, beige, and bare, with thin walls where you can hear people screaming in anger and pain every night.

It’s in this seedy apartment hallway that Beau’s own apartment keys are abruptly and mysteriously stolen, just as he’s about to leave to visit his mom. Beau calls his mom, informing her that he’s not sure if he can visit her anymore. His mom is deeply disappointed, and when Beau asks her for her opinion, her vague yet very direct reply is, “Whatever you do, I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.” The next two-and-a-half hours explore what “the right thing” is as Beau attempts to travel to his mom, but is stalled and sidetracked into multiple surreal dimensions on his journey.

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At the risk of saying too little and too much, the film is separated into at least five sections. It’s long, it’s outrageous, it’s beautiful, it’s gross, and it transcends ratings of good and bad. Reviewing this film after just one viewing feels disingenuous to the film. I should see it again. I will see it again, but I’m unsure if I want to. In a current theatrical climate where most movies are franchise extensions, Beau is worth your time. But I say this knowing it could piss you off. The film has divided most critics and viewers, and because of this, I appreciate its very existence to create discussion. Movies should evoke some type of emotion besides entertainment, and I would love to be with you on your way home as you try to process your thoughts on “Beau is Afraid.”

Things To Note

Why “Beau is Afraid” Is Rated R

  • Dialogue: There is plenty of profanity that you can hear AND see on the walls of Beau’s apartment building.
  • Violence: Chaotic and bloody violence. The kind your local news loves to report but amplified to a comedic and horrifying degree.
  • Sexual Content: A key portion of the film conveys Beau’s inability to orgasm, that leads to a quite shocking sex scene.
  • Miscellaneous: Pills and an undisclosed drug that Beau smokes are used in the film.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What do YOU think about this movie? 

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

Beau Wassermann: Beau is timid, afraid of the world and people, but for good reason: bad things seemingly happen to him every day. He’s Courage the Cowardly Dog trapped inside a middle-aged man’s body. Beau’s deep paranoia and anxiety may be due to his mother, or his inability to orgasm, or Beau’s mom informing Beau about his inability to orgasm…somewhere in there is the thesis of the film.

Mona Wassermann: Beau’s single-parent mom. She is a beautiful, powerful, narcissistic woman who seemingly spends every second of every day loving her son or proving how he doesn’t love her.

Elaine Bray: The only other woman in Beau’s life that he potentially loved. Elaine’s got grit; she unapologetically goes after what she wants and often gets it. While they met as children, Elaine is an elusive figure by which Beau is still enamored as an adult.

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A young Beau with his mother.


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended |

Notable Performances or Moments

With a flicker of an eyelid, Joaquin Phoenix empathizes with Beau’s deep hurt. He wears the deep fear and exhaustion of a man who has only known these two emotions for the last forty years. While equally comical and pitiful, Phoenix is able to fully embody Beau’s horrifying existence and take the viewer on that trip.

Patti LuPone is also every person’s worst fear as a mother. She holds unmatched authority in guilt-inducing monologues and makes the nastiest remarks sing.


Directorial Style Provides Breathless Sequences

The first 40 minutes are an endless, beautiful nightmare. The camera movements, blocking, wide angles, and constant commotion on screen give the viewer something new to horrify and impress each time. The sheer craft behind each sequence, from the animated stage production to the confrontation between Beau and his mother, can be excessive, but this film proudly boasts its extremities.

A Film That Will Provide a Discussion

“Beau is Afraid” is difficult to categorize into highlights and low points. Any low point for one viewer can be a highlight for another. I feel like a fool for even giving it a grade, but ultimately, that’s part of my admiration for this film. Some will absolutely hate it, some will love it; what’s tragedy for some is comedy for others. But what’s crucial about Beau is discussing the film afterwards. For those reading, I encourage you to watch it, and hopefully, we can talk.

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Beau is Afraid (2023) – Movie Review w/ Spoilers
While Beau is Afraid is difficult to summarize and review, that's part of the viewing experience. It's a film meant to be seen first, so don't spoil yourself. We'll talk about it later.
Directorial Style Provides Breathless Sequences
A Film That Will Provide a Discussion

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