With a mum like that, he should be.
dir: Ari Aster
You may hear such a title and wonder if the Beau the title refers to is just generally afraid, or whether he’s afraid because of specific things.
Let me just help you out a tad by pointing out that Beau, or perhaps director Ari Aster, are both afraid of a lot of things.
It is really hard to talk about this movie, this long arse movie. It’s exactly 2 hours and 59 minutes long, including credits. You might wonder why it’s not easier to say it’s 3 hours long. But you see making the length exactly 2 hours and 59 minutes long is just another way for Aster to fuck with the audience.
The Beau of the title, Beau Wasserman, is played by Joaquin Phoenix. He is paunchy, middle-aged, balding, and fearful. He is afraid of practically everything, but what he is most afraid of is disappointing his mother. This is 3 hours (sorry, 2h59m) of a film saying “The main character is deeply fucked up because his mum is a monster”.
The audience tolerance for this will vary wildly. This is not the extreme, terrifying horror of Hereditary, where family is a curse beyond your control, or the sly take on Wicker Man-style folk horror that was Midsommar.
No, this is…something else.
Beau lives in the kind of awful New York apartment that you imagine Travis Bickle lived in before shooting everyone at the end of Taxi Driver. Awful, and tiny, in a terrible area where people are screaming constantly, there are corpses in the street and someone called the Birthday Boy Stabber runs around naked stabbing people, and the cops don’t seem to want to stop him.
Beau is about to travel by plane to visit his mother. It’s the anniversary of his father’s death, a man who died before Beau was born, or so he has been told. Beau discusses all of this with his therapist, who asks him if he has any trepidation about seeing his mother, or whether he just wants her to die.
Beau thinks this is an odd question, because the audience thinks so too, but the wise old therapist assures him it’s perfectly normal for two things to be true – that he might love his mother but also want her to shuffle off this mortal coil.
It’s not clear how long Beau has been seeing this therapist, but it’s clear that he’s been talking about his mother for decades.
As Beau returns to his apartment building, he makes eye contact with an entirely tattooed man who ferociously runs at Beau as Beau tries to get into his front door.
We start to wonder how any of this can be real. And what we never get is any evidence that it’s not.