3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

I haven’t felt this psychotic from a cinema experience since Shutter Island.

Beau Is Afraid does what it says on the tin. It follows the Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) and his hellish life where the worst case scenario happens on a regular basis.

This is writer/director Ari Aster’s third feature film, after Hereditary and Midsommar. Although not a fan of Hereditary, I really liked Midsommar and Beau Is Afraid lies somewhere in between the two. I preferred Midsommar because even though it was disturbing, it felt more easily digestible because the momentum built in a more gradual and satisfying way. It also felt like a more cohesive story.

Beau is Afraid has more of a constant on/off tempo. This makes it tougher to watch in comparison. A halfway intermission would have been welcome, to provide some relief from the hopelessness. The scenes are interesting and unique though – I think that is the major selling point of the film as a whole.

If you watch this expecting profound hidden meanings to decipher, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Put your inner detective on ice – it’s much more straightforward than you think. Ari Aster’s explanation was shallower than the one I had barely begun to concoct in anticipation. I even had a whole extra star up my sleeve to be awarded in case the backstory was extra satisfying and clever… Too bad!

Joaquin Phoenix gives a typically decent performance however, through no fault of his own, some of the outlandish scenes make it harder to take him award-winningly seriously. Parker Posey appears in a supporting role, they also starred together in Irrational Man.

I reluctantly categorise this as a comedy as per IMDB’s listing, but comedy-wise it’s mildly amusing at best. Watch out for some thoughtful graffiti and signage in the background of Beau’s neighbourhood.

This is probably more like 3.3 stars but I rounded up to 3.5.

Curious sidenote: Apparently the new nightmare is an apathetic millennial girl who threatens to spread lies about you whilst filming on her phone. The character trope appears both in this as well as in The Whale.

Beau Is Afraid premieres in Sweden on 28 April.

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