The Absurdity of Beau is Afraid had Joaquin Phoenix questioning his character’s core

Phoenix added, “So that then leads you to the most important question, which was, what is the nature of this person? Who is he? What is their soul? And I think when we kind of discovered that, it all started to make sense, or I stopped questioning the absurdity of the world. Because [Beau] doesn’t [question it]. He just kind of accepts the world as it is. That was difficult to get over, because you’re on set, like, ‘But how can I not be aware of it? Why am I not reacting to this?’ So I felt like that was what was most important, was discovering who he was. Who was he when he was born?”

Getting to the heart of Beau’s character is also paramount for the audience while watching “Beau Is Afraid.” Much like Phoenix needed to get to know him at his core, viewers also spend a ton of time delving into the nooks and crannies of Beau’s psyche—and without that? Well, the film certainly wouldn’t land where Aster, or Phoenix for that matter, intends for it to land. The emotional catharsis wouldn’t be there without an understanding between the audience and the film. In fact, those who have already shown a distaste for it probably didn’t make that covenant with the movie. 

But in a way, the audience owes it to Aster and Phoenix to try their best to at best empathize and at worst sympathize with Beau over the course of the three-hour epic. After all, how else are we supposed to make sense of the absurd horror of Beau’s existence? Maybe we should make like Phoenix and just embrace it. That works too. 

“Beau Is Afraid” goes wide in theaters in the United States on April 21, 2023.

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