Beau Is Afraid is now available on Blu-ray. The latest film by director Ari Aster stars Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, and delivers a stiff shot of paranoia and dread. While the film was divisive when it came out in theaters, the Blu-ray is a great way to give the wild experience the multiple viewings it deserves.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about Beau Is Afraid after my initial watch. The film took a bunch of unexpected turns, and while the dark comedy made me laugh, it was pretty spaced out. Was it worth the three hours spent watching? I certainly thought so, although I wasn’t sure I’d go back in for another trip into madness anytime soon. However, having checked out the Blu-ray, I’m glad I gave it another go.
Ari Aster’s epic is still a wildly disjointed film, but it’s a bit easier to digest and appreciate it for what it actually is on repeat viewing. It’s essentially four films in one, with the tense opening in a dystopian city being a brilliant way to expand upon his original Beau short from 2011. My favorite is the second section, which sees the great Nathan Lane play a supportive stepdad of sorts for Beau, and deliver the funniest performance in the entire movie. It still slogs a bit during the extended play sequence, but even that can be appreciated for some remarkable set design.
The final act is the most ridiculous of the movie in a wild number of ways. It has perhaps the funniest sex scene ever jammed in, along with a divisive and silly reveal I’m still not sure works but sure made me laugh. Does it all come together as neatly as one would hope? Not really, but a stellar performance by Joaquin Phoenix keeps viewers invested throughout the entire three hours. I’m not sure the film would’ve worked with anyone else, and I’m certainly glad Phoenix got to be such a charming weirdo for the role.
The only special feature is a 15-minute featurette titled “Finally Home: Making Beau Is Afraid.” The video is a solid look with some great quotes from Aster and Lane, in particular, about their performances. It’s best watched after the film itself, as there are spoilers aplenty. It’s nice to get some glimpse into Aster’s creative vision, although an actual commentary track would’ve been much appreciated for such a dense work.
Beau Is Afraid’s parts are probably greater than its sum, but it’s an unforgettable journey that I’ll probably go on every few years. Even when it doesn’t fully work, Aster cements himself as one of the more interesting and daring filmmakers at the moment. Thankfully, he has an equally thrilling partner in Phoenix, as both make this a weird, wonderful, and — above all — unforgettable film.