In this segment of our Colossus Movie Guide for Beau is Afraid, we delve into the significance of the film’s title.
- Beau Wassermann – Joaquin Phoenix
- Mona Wassermann – Patti LuPone
- Therapist – Stephen McKinley Henderson
- Roger – Nathan Lane
- Grace – Amy Ryan
- Toni – Kylie Rogers
- Jeeves – Denis Ménochet
- Elaine – Parker Posey
- Penelope – Hayley Squires
- Written by – Ari Aster
- Directed by – Ari Aster
Why is the movie called Beau is Afraid?
In 2011, Ari Aster made a short film called Beau. It had a premise where a man is supposed to go visit his mother but someone steals the keys to his apartment. It’s a surreal exploration of paranoia, perception, fear, and dependence on a parent.
Talking to Collider, Aster said: I don’t see this as a remake of that short, or even necessarily an expansion of that short. I know that that’s kind of an unsatisfying answer given that they have the same basic title, and the catalyst for the story is the same, but only to say that this story has been just kind of growing and growing for me, and that character has been both growing and almost turning more and more into this enigma.
Clearly, Aster had a fondness for Beau, the character, even as the character evolved. So it made sense that he’d want to keep the title. Beau also would have fit with the singular nature of Aster’s other titles: Hereditary and Midsommar.
But two things come up. First, the words hereditary and midsommar convey something. Hereditary, the idea of inheritance and family. Midsommar, Scandinavia and seasons and festivals. Beau doesn’t tell us much beyond that it’s about a person. It’s one thing if the name is known: Amadeus, Malcolm X, Lincoln. No one knows Beau.
The second thing is that if you repeat the title of the short film, then people will draw a much stronger connection to the original short. Something Aster clearly doesn’t want and didn’t intend. As he said, the story and character have both grown for him. By expanding the title, Aster reflects that growth and adds necessary tonal context. The movie is about someone named Beau, and Beau is afraid. That idea of fear primes the viewer for the outrageous, terrifying odyssey that is Beau’s journey.
Beau is Afraid is similar to Hereditary and Midsommar in that it explores grief, guilt, and parental relationship. In the previous films, the catalyzing events had to do with personal loss. The death of a child. The tragic loss of parents and a sister. In Beau is Afraid, Beau’s grief and guilt is a byproduct of his environment. When he was younger, it was the world curated by his mother. Now that he’s older, it’s the world itself. The overall impact of his upbringing and his place in society is a constant state of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.
The title reflects this. It lets the viewer know that this is not just a character study but specifically about why this character is afraid. It informs but also implies the question: why is Beau afraid? Scene by scene by scene, we come to understand what has led to his broken spirit.
There’s also the idea of comparing yourself to Beau. Beau is afraid, for all these reasons. Are you? Are you similar to Beau or different? If you are afraid, what can you do to improve your life? Can you move? Can you cut out negative influences? Can you overcome deeply foundational fears? If you’re not afraid, what are you?
Share Your Opinions
Do you have additional insights regarding the title that you believe should be incorporated into the Colossus Movie Guide for Beau is Afraid? Leave your comments below, and we may include your suggestions in our comprehensive guide.
I have always had a curiosity with names within films, I enjoyed your insight on the significance of the name Beau. My theory dealt with the name “Beau” as the truncated version of the word “beautiful.” Perhaps this may be a stretch, but I think in context, the suppression of human potential in society within the film, would support this theory.
That’s a nice theory!