Beau Is Afraid Ending Explained
10 mins read

Beau Is Afraid Ending Explained

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Beau is AfraidBeau is Afraid’s ending is one of the wildest and strangest finales of the year. Written and directed by Ari Aster, whose filmography has historically dealt with similar themes, Beau is Afraid follows the titular character (played by Joaquin Phoenix) on a journey towards awareness following the unexpected death of his mother Mona.



Beau is Afraid has received a mostly positive critical reception. At three hours long, the neurotic odyssey is Aster’s longest film to date. The film ends with Beau strangling Mona after learning she faked her own death. Mona collapses, presumably dead for real, while Beau escapes to a boat, finally free of his life’s shackles, as well as the fear and anxiousness that dictated his life. But it isn’t long before he’s facing Mona (and her lawyer) once more, trapped within a watery amphitheater while listening to the sins he’s committed as a son. Beau’s boat eventually blows up, throwing him into the watery depths where he struggles to rise up but seemingly drowns.

Mona Twist Explained: Why She Faked Her Own Death

zoe lister-jones in beau is afraid

Beau is told early on that his mom died after a chandelier fell and cut off her head, but it’s later revealed that Mona faked her own death. Mona felt rejected after “squeezing” out all her love to give to Beau, who she felt was ungrateful after all that she’d given him, and he couldn’t bother to come visit her. To Patti LuPone’s Mona, Beau was an endless well of disappointment who was always asking her what he should do — out of fear of doing the wrong thing. Mona alleges she did everything in her power to raise Beau, giving him everything that her mother never did for her.

Mona wanted to see if Beau would come to her funeral, which would solidify her sense of rejection and indicate a lack of love for her on Beau’s part. Mona worked in extremes, and she expected Beau to give her unconditional love for simply being his mother. Faking her own death was the ultimate test for Beau as a son — at least in Mona’s eyes. Not getting there in time for her funeral confirmed to Mona that he didn’t care about her in the way she wanted. He didn’t put her first despite her being gone. Mona’s “death” was a trap, and Beau reaffirmed the neglect his mother already felt, regardless of his actions.

Beau Is Afraid’s Reality: Was It All Happening In Beau’s Mind?

beau is afraid movie

There are many aspects of Beau is Afraid that will make one question what’s real and what isn’t. What becomes clear is how deep Beau’s fear and anxiety truly goes. Other characters record him throughout the film, and he never feels safe — often to an exaggerated degree. Beau is Afraid suggests that most things are indeed happening in Beau’s mind. People recording him play into Beau’s sense of being watched by his mother at all times. From fearing his own neighborhood, which itself is an extreme version of how Mona might perceive city life, and being trapped by Grace and Roger’s family speaks to Beau feeling suffocated and smothered by his mother’s expectations.

It’s possible that Beau’s journey was a manifestation of his own feelings coming to life, a slice of his perceived reality, and not what was happening objectively. If one is to view the events of Beau is Afraid from the titular character’s perspective, certain events — such as his mother faking her own death — can be construed as objective reality. Considering what was revealed throughout the film about Mona especially, it’s easy to believe she would go to such lengths to test Beau’s love. However, the film itself is executed in a way that suggests a disconnection to reality. Within the film’s context, the film could be the result of Beau’s heightened emotions.

Beau’s Father Explained (What The Creature Represents)

beau ending explained

Mona tells Beau that his father had a heart murmur and died on the night of his conception. When he goes to the attic, Beau sees an underfed man before he’s replaced with a penis-shaped creature. Since it’s unclear if it’s real, the creature could represent Beau’s own sense of manhood. Beau is afraid to have sex because he thinks he might die like his dad did, so the idea that his genital organ would be a terrifying creature says a lot about how he views himself. It could be that his father did die, and he created this monstrous form to deal with his father’s absence and its effects on his psyche.

What Beau’s Dream Odyssey Really Means

beau ending

In the film’s second act, Beau is watching a play about a young man who is being restrained in life. Beau then begins to imagine himself on this journey, walking into the unknown and carving out his own path in life. In this dream story, Beau has a life — a wife and three sons — that he ultimately loses before wandering out on his own for years. While he is eventually reunited with his sons in the dream, Beau is accused of being so selfish that it was hard to find him. Much of this dream sequence indicates Beau’s own repressed desires for such a life. His own fears prevented him from having a family.

But the imagined events also point to the fears of Beau being an absent father like his own dad, though through no fault of his own. Beau’s odyssey dream also speaks to the idea of being lost, searching for something he can’t find, and being weighed down by his own guilt and the terror of moving forward. Beau goes through the motions and ultimately retreats into his own mind rather than facing the reality of his life and what he could do about it. Beau’s imagined journey is riddled with obstacles, but it suggests that he — and not simply his mother — is also standing in the way of his own happiness.

Does Beau Really Die At The End?

beau is afraid death

After strangling his mother, Beau believes himself to be free, so he takes a boat out onto the water and sits there for a long time, content. But he’s trapped again inside an amphitheater with his mother, who has returned to the living (or never really died, depending on how one might see it), her lawyer, and hundreds of onlookers. The lawyer goes through a list of transgressions and Beau can’t properly defend himself. Overwhelmed by the stress of it all, the boat explodes — as Beau’s own feelings come to a head — and he falls into the water.

Beau’s heard gurgling before everything goes silent, presumably dying. This sequence can be interpreted as Beau being fully swallowed up by his mother after a brief moment of freedom, paralleling the film’s first scene of Beau being born. Whereas he emerged from the womb to live his own life, Beau’s water death is the culmination of a life metaphorically surrounded by water, with no way out. In a sense, Beau has retreated back to the womb, enveloped fully by his mother’s “love,” unable to have his own life apart from her. Beau’s essence has basically died, and his own fears and anxieties have claimed him, preventing him from breaking away from what holds him back.

Why Elaine Died Instead Of Beau?

elaine beau is afraid

Beau is afraid to have sex because that’s how his father died. However, Beau managed to survive sex with Elaine, who died instead. It’s possible Elaine died as a direct connection to Beau’s own fear that sex kills. Crucially, sex with him can kill, signaling that Mona may have been right all along. Beau could be projecting his fear onto the situation, to the point that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s so afraid and anxious about his manhood that it might have been transferred. His fears manifested into reality, his orgasm killing Elaine right before the moment Mona is confirmed alive, mirroring Mona’s own experience with Beau’s father.

What Beau Is Afraid’s Ending Really Means

beau is afraid ending

Beau is Afraid is about the stifling life one can lead when saddled with so much fear, anxiety, and paranoia. With the relationship between Beau and his mother being so instrumental to the story, Beau is Afraid showcases how a toxic parent/child relationship can be detrimental to one’s own development. Aster suggests that having such an overbearing parent, one whose behaviors indicate that nothing can meet her impossible standards, is paralyzing. The expectation that unconditional love should be given regardless of poor treatment is at the center of the film, which also posits the all-consuming fear of repercussion and guilt, and how one can be affected by one’s own inaction due to these feelings.