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Ari Aster Reflects on Beau Is Afraid’s ‘Prophetic’ Ending After Dividing Audiences

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Ari Aster feels the ending of 2023’s Beau Is Afraid is “prophetic” given how audiences reacted to the movie.

Speaking with Vanity Fair, Aster said he was “slightly stunted” by the release of Beau Is Afraid after most audience members came away from the movie with strong reactions, some of which were positive and some of which were negative.

“I always knew the film was going to be polarizing and it’s designed to be divisive,” Aster said. “The film shape-shifts a lot, and the film has something of hostility toward traditional narrative structure. It was always important to me that the film be about a character who does not change, so already, this is something that’s going to alienate certain people and it’s designed to alienate certain people.”

Reflecting on the ending, Aster said the film’s final moments — which sees a crowd of onlookers quietly leave an arena after watching Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) drown right in front of them — is somewhat similar to how people reacted to the movie in real life.

“Well, the film ends on a theater just very gradually emptying out over the credits, with a very indifferent audience,” Aster said. “I wasn’t quite ready for just how prophetic that ending was going to be. It occurred to me in retrospect. I knew where this was headed. Right. And that’s part of the point.”

What is Beau Is Afraid about?

Written and directed by Aster (Hereditary, Midsommar), A24’s Beau Is Afraid was released in United States theaters on April 14, 2023. Along with Phoenix, the movie also stars Patti LuPone, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Parker Posey, and Richard Kind.

“A paranoid man embarks on an epic odyssey to get home to his mother in this bold and ingeniously depraved new film from writer/director Ari Aster,” the film’s synopsis reads.

Beau Is Afraid is currently available to rent or purchase on AppleTV+, Amazon Prime Video, and more digital streaming services.