The opening scene of Beau is Afraid has been haunting me ever since I watched the movie. It's a scene that lingers, etching itself into my mind. Baby Beau, just born, emerges into a world of obscurity, surrounded by a nebulous red hue. Then, abruptly, he is dropped onto the floor, his mother's screams filling the air. This vivid imagery forces me to contemplate my own journey into existence. Perhaps, in that moment, I too was greeted by a disorienting swirl of colors, with that same nebulous red as my first glimpse of the world. It's a jarring and unsettling scene, one that places the world around me into a disconcerting context. From that point on, everything I perceive has evolved, blossoming from that enigmatic red. This notion echoes the wisdom found in Tibetan beliefs, where a flashing red light accompanies our journey towards death, drawing us inexorably towards it.

The online realm has been abuzz with reactions to Beau long before the film's official release, and opinions have been sharply divided. A viral audio recording even went so far as to predict that this movie would be a career-killer for its director, Ari Aster. Another point of contention was its lengthy runtime, which presented a personal challenge for me as someone who struggles with prolonged periods of sitting.

Yet, the true essence of Beau extends beyond its narrative material; it poses a profound examination of our relationship with media consumption itself. In an era dominated by rapid-fire video clips and fleeting soundbites, we find ourselves inundated with a relentless barrage of media throughout each passing week. We are bombarded by fleeting glimpses into the lives of countless individuals we will likely never encounter. Beau, however, demands that we break this pace, compelling us to engage in introspection and confront the inner workings of our own anxieties. The impact of this experience was so profound that I found myself momentarily disenchanted with movies after watching it. Slowly, however, the film began to grow on me, leading me to ponder the timeless question: “How many movies are simply too many movies?”

Within the landscape of film criticism, where speed is of the essence, there exists a challenging paradox. We are expected to swiftly deliver our verdicts while the movies are still fresh and relevant. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for a movie to settle within our minds and for our opinions to truly take root. At first glance, Beau may appear disconcerting, almost bordering on unwatchable. Yet, in retrospect, it demands our undivided attention, reaching far beyond its runtime. Although I have no intention of revisiting it, my admiration for Ari Aster has grown stronger than ever. This film redefines the very essence of the cinematic experience, provoking us to contemplate the very nature of our existence.

When all is said and done, amidst the vast array of movies, TV shows, and TikTok videos, what remains is that nagging voice within our minds, questioning the purpose and meaning behind it all. Beau engages in a profound dialogue with that inner voice, leaving an indelible mark. For this thought-provoking and even emotionally challenging experience, the movie is undoubtedly worth watching, even if it proves to be a traumatic journey.

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But not without annoying you

Beau is Afraid

The biggest surprise from Ari Aster's latest movie Beau is Afraid is how he managed to make the movie, considering that it's a total anxiety inducing oddball with one of the finest actors working in Hollywood today. It could be that his relationship with A24 has scored him this deal, with his previous two critical and commercial darlings Hereditary and Midsommar obviating him from any critical scrutiny.

Three hours long and filled with scene after scene of insanity and overindulgence, this is not your typical Hollywood bender but this comes at the cost of actually enjoying the movie. Who's your average movie watcher? A person who comes to a dark room post a long day at work and sits through a dreamscape that's a stand-in to escape their gritty life. Beau is Afraid takes this opportunity to submerge the audience deeper into their loser ethos with no salvation possible, you can chuckle at the little jokes peppered through the movie but it eventually brings you into confrontation of what is to painfully plugging fingers in your emotional wounds. Now that's a challenging watch, different from the happy sap sold week after week, but that also makes one question, how challenging should movies be? Beau is Afraid takes the lead a bit too far, often with a lot of disjointed experimentation that doesn't really make sense. Why is Beau hallucinating and what's up with his mom? When the reveals happen, the interest wanes at the long run time that meanders through a lot of nonsensical events, all of which pretend to have a greater meaning beyond the plot. It felt like Ari Aster wanted to pull something like what Charlie Kaufman did with Synecdoche, New York but to pull such a film there has to be a hook that is powerful. In Beau is Afraid it's about Beau wanting to meet his mother and it makes you wonder, if that's all the dramatic meat that's needed to sustain a story.

Crazy things keep happening that propel the story forward but none have any semblance over reality. We're supposed to believe that these things can happen but my biggest grouse was that the world building wasn't enough for me to be invested about Beau. Joaquin Phoenix breathes the character of Beau into submission and it's painful to watch him suffer but this suffering doesn't come from a point of empathy but rather disgust, and considering Ari Aster's previous horror credentials this is a compliment. The movie left me asking for more or made me wonder how it passed through multiple layers of scrutiny that take over a creative project. It's a movie that I won't be revisiting again (and unlike Requiem for Dream not for a good reason) but it's challenging watch that I'd recommend you to sit through because it's unusual filmmaking and when there's a lot of hullabaloo over cookie cutter movies, Beau offers a critical rethink of what can be a blockbuster.

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