Beau is Afraid is director Ari Aster's latest trip into the deepest and darkest recess of our psyche. The three-hour dark comedy follows the paranoid Beau Wasserman (played by Joaquin Phoenix) as he journeys to visit his mother (Patti LuPone). On the way, he faces a nightmarish experience on his Kafkaesque journey.
Aster said that physical space and location was very important, and indeed it grounds the obtuse moments in the film. Principal photography beginning in June 2021 and filming took place in downtown Montreal and Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, an off-island suburb of Montreal in Quebec.
He told CultMTL: "Not to drain the romance out of it but shooting on location is so much about getting close enough to what you’re looking for because you’re never going to get the exact thing.
"Those are things you kinda get saddled with, and you need to live with them. Often, they become the things you love the most, because it adds so much texture."
"Montreal is such a beautiful place, and we were shooting here during the summer. It was especially vibrant and fun to be here while we were making the film. The world that Beau is in is totally invented, a heightened kind of funhouse mirror of the real world. If anything, those details help ground them a bit further."
In these Canadian locations, production designer Fiona Crombie built entire worlds. Aster told W Magazine: "[Crombie] is really wonderful. The worlds were all kind of set in the script, so we knew that we would be building a stage in the woods.
"And we knew pretty early on that we would be building Beau's apartment, the corridors in Beau's apartment building, the elevator and the lobby downstairs from scratch. There was a period during which I thought we might actually build his entire block, but we did not have the money to do that.
"So we put up facades on an existing city block, or really two city blocks in Montreal."
In addition to the extensive production design, the movie's animation was done by Cristobal León & Joaquín Cociña, and in the end, Beau Is Afraid takes the mantle as A24's most expensive film to date.