“Beau is Afraid” Review

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“Beau is Afraid” Rating: 3/5

“Beau is Afraid” is sure to be one of the most polarizing films of the year. Indie film enthusiasts and Ari Aster fans will surely sing its praises. I believe most mainstream audiences will have one thought: WTF!

Beau, an anxiety riddled man must make a journey to attend his mother’s funeral. During his trek, he begins to lose control and give into the darker side of his psyche. The lines of fantasy and reality begin to blur, creating a hallucinogenic and disturbing experience for Beau amid this tragedy.

Positives

“Beau” is one of those stories that will have audiences pondering for the rest of the night. It’s truly a perplexing experience that will leave even its greatest fans scratching their heads.

I think the film is incredibly well-edited. The way the scenes play with the viewer’s sense of reality is very interesting. It’s whimsical yet disturbing. There’s nothing quite like that uneasy feeling, especially when Beau really starts losing his sense of reality. Director Ari Aster captures the overwhelming nature of anxiety in such a unique way. We really see how Beau’s perception of the world might be distorted based on his experiences. This trend builds and builds as the story goes on, but I think the exposition of his anxiety was strongest in the first act.

The performances were all captivating. I commend these actors for leaning into the weird nature of the film, immersing the audience in such a wonky, unsettling journey. One of my favorite sequences of the film was the cartoonish journey Beau experiences in the woods. It’s incredibly eerie and puts into perspective Beau’s regrets in life.

Aster delves more into the comedy and mental games here, abandoning the horror-centric tone in his first two films. While I didn’t find the film funny, it was certainly unsettling. I’d say “Beau” is his most cinematic film yet. The technical aspects are certainly worth highlighting.

I also enjoyed how the themes and symbolism weren’t spoon-fed. We really have to work in order to understand each glimpse into Beau’s psyche. I could see some viewers losing interest in this due to the tedious runtime and snowballing of oddball sequences. While it was certainly a lot, I appreciated it anyway. Can’t complain about this one being familiar material!

Negatives

Although I commend “Beau” for being a distinct vision, I can’t say it hits on every note. In fact, I think the film is quite sloppy at times and relies on self-indulgence rather than creative restraint. Of course, audiences will appreciate a visionary, but even creatives need checks and balances.

That would have been helpful in this case, especially with the runtime. I truly cannot remember the last time a third act dragged on as much as this. An hour-long funeral sequence that goes up, down, and sideways at a snail’s pace had my leg bouncing in restlessness. I also found the film to feel quite choppy. Each of the three acts feel like they could be different movies. The tone is different in each, highlighting contrasting areas of Beau’s unrest.

Even though I appreciate the willingness to examine such unsettling areas of his life, it doesn’t always translate to an enjoyable filmgoing experience. Many of these issues could have been avoided if Aster was willing to sacrifice elongated sequences for efficient storytelling. He clearly has lots to say, which I appreciate. But even a filmmaker as talented as him needs to know when to say “cut.”

Conclusion

I’ve tried to stay away from major plot details due to the sheer “experience” of this one. “Beau is Afraid” is a wildly unique creative vision that has much to commend.

Unfortunately, the film is held back by a lethargic runtime and jumbled set of ideas. I’d say see this one if you are into trippy indie flicks or want to challenge your mental resolve. I’m glad I saw it but am in no hurry to re-watch it. Points for creativity here.

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