This is Aster’s most ambitious film yet; a big, weird story that the filmmaker has called “Lord of the Jewish Rings. serious head and scary loft, but Aster also seems to be heavily influenced by Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” here, especially in how he creates an expansive, surreal world and makes his performers change with it. And like “Synecdoche,” there’s a deep, aching loneliness at the heart of it all. The feeling that some of us are completely alone, and it’s the loneliness we create that we can’t control.
Joaquin Phoenix is Beau, and it’s fair to say that for all the big, weird settings Aster creates, the movie rests on Phoenix’s shoulders. He’s one of our best working actors; a performer with a wild kind of intensity that is hard to define. He has bright, deeply sad eyes and a voice that is somewhat out of tune and melodious; music in its own unique, almost unclassifiable ways. Here, his voice sounded particularly out of place and frantic; like there was a question on his lips for every word he uttered.
Beau is preparing to visit his mother (Patti LuPone), and it is clear that this is not an easy visit for him. During a therapy session, Beau’s therapist (Stephen McKinley Henderson) asks if Beau wishes his mother died. Beau was surprised at the question, but the fact that the therapist was asking it was enough to send a few signals. Beau’s relationship with his mother, which we gradually come to know through flashbacks and other experiences, is clearly strained and a major cause of Beau’s anxiety. But he is determined to return home – although that is easier said than done.