See Joaquin Phoenix Walk Into A Cartoon World In New Horror Film

Joaquin Phoenix stars as an intensely anxious man with mother issues in the trailer for Beau is Afraid.

By Nathan Kamal | Updated

joaquin phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix will star in horror director Ari Aster’s new film Beau is Afraid as an anxious man dealing with his anxiety and mother issues, but the first trailer for the new movie indicates things are not quite as simple as that. Set to British rock band Supertramp’s 1979 hit “Goodbye Stranger,” the trailer sees the Gladiator star in a number of increasingly bizarre and stressful situations, ultimately culminating in him walking through some kind of idealized yet sinister cartoon world. In short, Beau is Afraid is probably going to be pretty weird.

The trailer for Beau is Afraid begins with Joaquin Phoenix seated on what looks like the deck of a cruise ship, but some things are already weird. For one, this version of the actor appears to be significantly older than he normally appears, and for another, he appears to be seated in a car seat while everyone around him is in a deck chair. Things do not get less strange from there, but the pace of the trailer is so quick that it can be difficult to process it all.

According to director Ari Aster, Beau is Afraid is a “decades-spanning surrealist horror film set in an alternate present.” The actual plot will involve Joaquin Phoenix’s anxiety-riddled Beau dealing with the sudden death of his overbearing mother and a car accident that leaves him bedridden. From there, the movie seems to take a turn into Misery-style horror in which Joaquin Phoenix is trapped in a house by a gentle-voiced yet sinister Nathan Lane, but once again, things get even weirder.

joaquin phoenix

At a certain point, it seems that Joaquin Phoenix escapes (via running through a plate glass door) and runs into a shifting series of cartoon worlds that range from icy and forbidding to bucolic and sunny. Other scenes from the Beau is Afraid trailer show Phoenix attempting to run through a street filled with rioters, a woman in a very frightening white mask, and repeated glimpses of Beau as an uncanny valley-like child (Armen Nahapetian).

Beau is Afraid is the third feature film from director Ari Aster, who became one of the leading lights of the “elevated horror” genre (along with his friend Robert Eggers) with 2018’s Hereditary and then the Florence Pugh-starring Midsommar in 2019. This time around, it seems he is putting Joaquin Phoenix through the mother-issues wringer, supported by a cast including Zoe Lister-Jones, Nathan Lane, Richard Kind, Amy Ryan, and Michael Gandolfini.

In addition to Beau is Afraid, Joaquin Phoenix is starring in the upcoming epic biopic film Napoleon from past collaborator Ridley Scott, in which he will portray the 19th-century French dictator. He will also be returning to the role of Arthur Fleck in Joker: Folie à Deux, the sequel to his billion-dollar-grossing comic book film, this time joined by Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn. It seems that the next several roles Joaquin Phoenix has ahead of him are going to be pretty intense, so we should all buckle down and get ready for them.