After Hereditary and Midsommar writer-director Ari Aster continues his epic length feature films with ‘Beau is Afraid’ and the traumas contained within those first two films continue here. Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) is a middle aged man-child living alone in his sparse apartment in a hellish neighbourhood where dead bodies lie unattended in the middle of the road, a naked murderer is on the loose and locals look like they’ve escaped from the green room of The Jeremy Kyle Show. Already on medication and undergoing therapy he determines to visit his mother, an overbearing presence in his life, but misses his flight, loses the keys to his flat and whilst suffering a catastrophic breakdown he ends up running naked down the high street in a manner we expected to see Liz Truss depart Downing Street
And it’s after this that he finds himself in the suburban home of an uptight couple played by Nathan Lane & Amy Ryan treating him like a surrogate son still grieving the death of their own army veteran son. But it is a far from settled home with their dead son’s highly unstable PTSD suffering friend Jeeves (Dennis Menochet) living in the garden matched only by Toni (Kylie Rogers) their own daughter’s equally unstable behaviour. All of this contains flashbacks to Beau’s childhood and his mother’s clearly malign influence on his life and development and whilst we have already seen a number of typically stand out Ari Aster moments it’s the third act that sees events ramped up further in an attempt to explain all that has gone before and it is both comic and unsettling and includes a lengthy dream like yet deliberately theatrical and stagey moments that combines with animation in a series of tableaux.
Like Ari Aster’s previous films there are several stand out moments that build to a satisfactory and usually extremely unsettling climax but at a minute shy of three hours long this is overlong and though the first hour is compelling the film soon becomes something of a Freudian nightmare that has audiences wondering Is this real? Is this in Beau’s mind?
There’s a number really great performances from supporting actors and the production design is excellent with plenty of the directors distinctive flourishes but Beau is Afraid is wildly uneven and narratively saggy and plays like some sort of Oedipal road movie. but this is disappointingly indulgent and like Aster’s previous film this would reward multiple viewings but whether audiences would prepare to commit is unlikely.
related feature: Ari Aster talks about the making of Hereditary
related feature: director Lee Cronin chats to us about the making of Evil Dead Rise
related feature : How Joaquin Phoenix achieved his Joker transformation……
Here’s the Beau is Afraid trailer…..