The trailer opens on an old and aged Joaquin Phoenix who has certainly seen better days. Reclining in what looks like a weird cross between a car seat and a wheelchair on a cruise ship, old Beau fixes his gaze on another startling figure looking right back at him: himself. Or, rather, a version of himself at a much, much younger age. While the prevailing narrative has been that the teen Beau is also played by a digitally de-aged Phoenix, perhaps providing an instance where the uncanny valley of the relatively new tech would seem to work in the film’s favor (as the inherent unreality of the premise feels like the entire point), I’m afraid I have to ruin the fun by pointing out that the character is simply played by an incredible Phoenix lookalike named Armen Nahapetian. Unless that’s just what they want us to think, of course.
While we’re wrapping our heads around this, we hear Beau’s mother ominously intoning, “I’m so sorry for what your daddy passed down to you. But I wanted a child, the greatest gift of my life.” Between the obviously lingering daddy issues, his haggard appearance, and a habit of popping prescription pills, it’s clear that something is very wrong in Beau’s life. The subsequent horror imagery that puts a sinister light on his mother leads to the first of many great gags in the trailer, as we smash-cut to the balding Beau who gravely announces that, “I’m visiting my mother tomorrow.”
And thus begins the “epic odyssey to get home to his mother,” as the official synopsis puts it.