After making a name for himself with the horror movies Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster pivots slightly to horror-comedy with Beau Is Afraid.
In this three-hour epic, Joaquin Phoenix plays a paranoid wreck called Beau Wasserman, who embarks on a surreal, anxiety-fuelled journey following the sudden death of his mother Mona (Patti LuPone).
This film is a demanding watch as it is epic in length, with no legitimate reason for it to be that long, and very weird, possibly even too weird for some. It is odd in the beginning and gets increasingly weirder as the movie progresses. The final act is frankly insane.
The movie can be roughly divided into five segments, going by the different locations, and the first chapter was very promising, particularly from a technical standpoint. It is set in Beau's gross apartment and the dodgy street below, and the way the camera moved around all the crazy characters was impressive.
You could make logical sense of the weirdness because it was obvious Beau was tripping on his medication, but the reasons for what happened later in the film were less clear. The ensuing chapters were more challenging and harder to digest.
Some of the surreal imagery in this movie will blow your mind and leave you processing what you have just witnessed as the credits roll after the maddening (and unnecessary) final sequence.
Besides the first segment, the chapters often outstayed their welcome, making the film as a whole feel overstuffed and quite self-indulgent. Aster could have done with refining his ideas and reining in the weirdness instead of letting himself run wild.
However, you have to hand it to Aster for having a singular, distinctive vision, even if it might be off-putting for some.
And you cannot fault the performances either - Phoenix gets put through the wringer as the timid, paranoid man with a lot of issues and LuPone is formidable as his scary mother. There are smaller appearances from the likes of Parker Posey, Amy Ryan, and Nathan Lane that also deserve praise, even if their screen time is short.
Beau Is Afraid is most definitely not for everybody. How you respond to it will depend on your tolerance for surreal, absolutely bonkers cinema and the darkness of your sense of humour.
In cinemas from Friday 19th May.