Beau is Afraid – need to know

Joaquin Pheonix plays a man confronting his darkest fears in this hero's-journey-with-a-difference by writer-director Ari Aster.

What’s this then?

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.

Oh! Who’s in it?

Joaquin Pheonix, Patti LuPone and Amy Ryan.

My kids have loved Joaquin ever since he did the voice of Kenai in Disney’s animation Brother Bear – can I take them?

Probably not. It’s rated R for strong violent content, sexual content, graphic nudity and drug use.

Fair enough. Is there a trailer?

Who’s the director?

Ari Aster, who also wrote it.

Oh yeah, that guy … Sorry, remind me?

You’ll remember him (maybe) from the big-hit horror films Hereditary (2019) and Midsommar (2019), both of which he also wrote and directed.

What are people saying?

The film is currently sitting with a 75% approval rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with an audience score of 64%.

Anthony Lane, in the New Yorker, had some misgivings:

Does Aster think we’re too slow, or too dumb, to pick up hints as we go? Some viewers will revel in such excess; I found it ever more wearisome.

The New Yorker review

Barry Hertz in the Globe and Mail, meanwhile, gave it a qualified thumbs-up:

Beau Is Afraid is not a movie for everyone – actually, it is a movie for very, very, very few. But I just happen to be part of that teeny tiny target audience. And for me, Beau Is Afraid kills.

Globe and Mail review

Read: What to watch in April: new to streaming, cinemas and film festivals near you

Any trivia that might help me win the meat platter at a future pub quiz?

Aster released a short film called Beau in 2011, about a ‘neurotic middle-aged man’s trip to visit his mother is delayed indefinitely when his keys are mysteriously taken from his door’. That film forms the basis of a key sequence in Beau is Afraid.

Do say

I feel I can appreciate my own neurosis better now and I’m going to seek professional help.

Don’t say

Sure it’s a ‘bravura performance’ by Pheonix but I still preferred him in Brother Bear.

When can I see it?

Beau is Afraid is in Australian cinemas from 20 April 2023.

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites