After 2018’s Hereditary and 2019’s Midsommar, filmmaker Ari Aster has truly established his ability to make audiences feel both emotionally wrecked and supremely freaked out. A horror auteur, for sure, but one who seems not to want to pigeonhole himself. With his third feature, Beau Is Afraid, Aster keeps the disturbing imagery, and the strange family dynamics, but adds to it a very specific and strange variety of comedy. And Joaquin Phoenix in various bald-and-old-age makeup. The first trailer for it definitely looks…well, weird.
We see a few things at play in this trailer that feature in all of Aster’s cinema. Generational trauma, seemingly normal people who are up to no good, scary things bubbling just under the surface. Aster adds some truly hallucinatory imagery to show off some of Beau (Phoenix)’s internalized terror. He’s afraid of everything outside, so it seems everything outside is worth being afraid of.
After embarking on a journey to visit his mother, perhaps to get some answers about his paternal predicament, Beau immediately finds himself in a bed. Amy Ryan ran him over with her car, and Nathan Lane has fitted him with a “little assistant health monitor.” This, to most people, would feel off, but to Beau, through Aster’s lens, it seems downright sinister. But during all of this, a mix of fantasy and heightened reality mix, while we see Beau in a number of different time periods. We’re supremely intrigued, and also not merely a little afraid. Fitting.
Beau Is Afraid also stars Stephen Mckinley Henderson, Hayler Squires, Denis Ménochet, Kylie Rogers, Armen Nahapetian, with Parker Posey, and Patti LuPone. The movie hits cinemas April 21, 2023.
Kyle Anderson is the Senior Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.