Ari Aster’s Beau Is Afraid is a surrealist tragicomedy film that was released in the US on April 1st, 2023. The film revolves around Beau traveling through a chaotic mess to get to his mother’s funeral. This article contains spoilers for Beau Is Afraid, as we’ll be talking about its ending.
Throughout the film, we see the world through a very anxious Beau’s eyes. At each moment, it’s hard to differentiate what’s real and what’s fictitious. The role of Beau is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, who’s known for selecting a certain genre of characters that Beau fits right into.
Asides from Joaquin, other cast members of Beau Is Afraid include Patti LuPone as Mona Wassermann (Beau’s mom) and Amy Ryan & Nathan Lane as the couple Grace and Roger.
Although the movie is very symbolic and manages to show what it’s like to suffer from severe anxiety, Beau Is Afraid failed to meet its budget at the Box Office.
The movie can easily create an uncomfortable environment for the viewer, and the whole experience just feels like a fever dream. That’s not a surprise, as Ari Aster has already produced similar movies, like Hereditary and Midsommar.
Beau Is Afraid: The Plot
After talking to his therapist, Beau prepares to leave for his father’s death anniversary back at his childhood home. His plans, however, are interrupted when his keys are stolen. When Beau goes out to buy water, random drugged people walk into his home, start partying and leave his house damaged.
Beau gets ahold of his cell phone and tries to call his mom, only to find out that Mona died after a chandelier fell on her head and decapacitated her.
In a shocked state, Beau tries to take a quick shower, only to somehow get stabbed and get hit by a car. He wakes up in Grace, and Roger’s home, and the couple treats his wounds.
He calls his mother, and her lawyer answers the phone, asking him to come home immediately. Although he tries to leave for the funeral on the same day, his deep wounds make it impossible for him to reach any place safely.
His time at the Grace and Roger household is made worse due to their daughter Toni and adopted son sort of guy named Jeeves. He was a veteran who fought with their real son, and now they were taking care of Jeeves as he was mentally unstable.
Toni is an angsty teenager who tries to drive Beau away from her home. She forces Beau to drink paint with her, but when he refuses, she drinks it herself and passes away. Grace blames Beau and asks Jeeves to kill him.
After running away from the house, Beau comes across a theatre group in the forest. They host a play that Beau imagines himself in. The emotional play is interrupted by Jeeves showing up and killing half the theatre people. Beau runs away again and hitchhikes to his mother’s home.
He meets Elaine there, who was his childhood crush when he was a teenager on a cruise. They get intimate, and Beau fears he will die. Instead, Elaine’s the one who dies and freezes in place.
Beau Is Afraid: Ending Explained
As we approach the end of the film, we see Mona showing up and seeing Beau being intimate despite his mom just “dying” a few days ago. Beau explains that he already knew she was alive as he had noticed the dead body wasn’t hers.
This causes his mom to lash out at him and blame him for being a bad son. We also see that Beau’s therapist had been working along with his mom. This behavior of hers goes to show that she was a very controlling mother and wanted her son for herself.
When he asks to see his father, Mona takes Beau to the attic. There he sees his malnourished twin brother and a giant phallus in place of his father. This was his mind using the memory he had and distorting it into what he knew he was supposed to see.
Beau didn’t have a twin brother, and it was himself that was courageous and bold when he saw starving in the attic. The giant phallus was all he knew of his father, as he had never met him, and the only thing he contributed to in his life was his seed.
The whole film revolves around generational trauma and its consequences on a child in adulthood. Whether it was Beau’s fear of being intimate due to the hereditary heart murmur or his severe anxiety, all of these were by-products of what he was told and made to go through when he was a child.
His comically enlarged scrotum represents his pent-up sexuality. As caring and loving as Mona thought she was, all she did was worsen Beau’s mental health. Her protectiveness left Beau unprepared for the outside world, thus his fear of people in everyday life.
Beau was a broken child, but there was nothing that he could do to get better with his mom still around. He eventually dies in the cave, where he sees a courtroom session with his mom and a huge audience. This was his mind playing out the events that had just happened and making Beau feel guilty for everything he did in his life. Beau drowns as his boat capsizes, showing how he has succumbed to his own mind.
This movie is another great psychological experience from Ari Aster. It may seem too much at times, but it is an almost accurate representation of how someone with severe anxiety and disturbed mental health sees a distorted world.
At present, Beau Is Afraid is available to stream on Prime Video.