Horror movie director Ari Aster, who broke through with the A24 movies Hereditary and Midsommar, is back with a change in direction from what we’ve seen from him before.
Beau is Afraid follows Beau (played by one of the best actors of all time, Joaquin Phoenix) on a epic and surreal odyssey, as he tries to make it to his mother’s house after hearing that her head has been crushed by a chandelier. The movie is three hours long, so by the time you get to the Beau is Afraid ending, there is some understandable relief.
If you’d like to find out our verdict on the dark fantasy comedy movie, check out our Beau is Afraid review. The film is conveniently broken into four fairly distinct sections. In the first, Beau has his apartment invaded by the homeless people who live on the street outside. In the second, Beau is run over by a surgeon (Nathan Lane) and his wife (Amy Ryan), and then held captive by them while he recuperates.
In the third sequence, Beau escapes the home of the surgeon into the forest, and the film turns into a heightened and stylised adventure movie. There he meets a pregnant woman (Hayley Squires) and watches a play about a man (also played by Phoenix) who spends his life wandering the earth searching for his sons. After this section, we finally get to to the Beau is Afraid ending, which takes place at his mother’s house.
What happens at the end of Beau is Afraid?
The final act takes place at Beau’s mother’s house, which he eventually makes it to – after spending the whole movie trying to reach it. He misses his mother’s funeral by an hour. He meets the now-adult Elaine (Parker Posey), from the holiday romance movie flashback, which featured a cruise Beau and his mother took when he was a teen. It turns out that Elaine has been working for Beau’s mother.
Beau and Elaine have sex, even though Beau believes (because his mother told him) that there is a curse on the male line in his family, to have sex once and then immediately die. Beau ‘finishes’ and experiences a huge wave of relief when he doesn’t die. However, Elaine dies instead.
Beau’s mother (now played by Patti LuPone, star of some of the best musicals in Broadway history) arrives and swiftly cleans up Elaine’s body, revealing that she (the mother) must have faked her own death. It is implied that after Beau missed his flight when he supposed to be taking a trip to see her, his mother arranges her own death and funeral to manipulate him into coming.
After monologuing for some time, Beau’s mother opens the hatch to the attic which we’ve repeatedly seen in Beau’s flashbacks. She coerces Beau into going up there, then shuts the door, trapping him in the attic, where things briefly turn into a full-blown horror movie.
Beau sees a now-adult man who is possibly a brother he had (who we saw in the flashbacks) and…an enormous penis monster with a terrifying face and teeth. Beau manages to escape and his mother tells him “that’s your father up there.” It’s unclear whether she’s referring to the man or the penis – by this point, it could be either.
Beau’s therapist (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is revealed to be at the house, seemingly in cahoots with Beau’s mother. The UPS driver who found Beau’s mother’s body and spoke to Beau on the phone is revealed to be played by Bill Hader of Barry fame. Beau’s mother then actually dies for real this time, by falling into a fish or reptile tank – pushed by Beau’s hands, although his intentions are ambiguous. A traumatised Beau runs from the house, and gets into a rowing boat.
At this point, Aster leans most into The Truman Show, which is understandable as it’s one of the best movies ever made. Beau finds himself in a pool surrounded by a huge arena seating filled with an audience.
A trial is conducted, where Richard Kind turns up as his prosecutor, alongside Beau’s mother. Beau also has a defense attorney, who can barely be heard over the enormous arena. Beau sits in his row boat and is judged to deserve death and the boat breaks, he sinks below and presumably drowns. The people in the stadium seating slowly start to file out as the end credits begin.
Find out more about other new movies to look forward to in 2023.