The baffling Beau is Afraid timeline includes mind-bending flashbacks and bizarre dream sequences that could be memories, all jumbled out of order. The surrealistic third feature from Ari Aster, the writer-director behind Hereditary and Midsommar, Beau is Afraid stars Joaquin Phoenix as a deeply anxious man who embarks on the journey of a lifetime to visit his mother. This darkly comedic psychological horror epic is Aster’s most wildly ambitious film to date. With a relatively massive production cost of $35 million, Beau is Afraid‘s budget was the biggest for an A24 movie by far.


Unlike Hereditary and Midsommar, which mostly follow linear stories, Beau is Afraid has a much more flexible structure. Aster often flashes back into Beau’s past, dives into his dreams, and in one particularly trippy sequence, he flashes forward to an entirely fabricated future. By the end of Beau is Afraid, the movie’s experimental narrative leaves the audience unclear on how many of the on-screen events have happened for real and how many were just imagined by an anxious mind. To help viewers understand the Beau is Afraid timeline, it’s best to rearrange the film’s intricate and complex events into chronological order.

Related: Beau Is Afraid Cast & Character Guide

Mona Wasserman Conceived A Child With A Giant Penis Monster

The penis monster in Beau is Afraid

The first story event on the Beau is Afraid timeline is also one of the movie’s most bizarre revelations. Mona Wasserman, the CEO of a corporation called MW Industries, conceived a child with a giant penis monster she kept locked in her attic. She was impregnated by a towering anthropomorphic phallus with a face and a pair of deadly blades for arms. Beau is Afraid’s attic monster can be seen as an absurd visual metaphor for the title character’s fear of his own sexuality.

Mona Gave Birth To Her Son Beau

Beau looking scared in Beau is Afraid

The opening of Beau is Afraid is a fuzzy POV shot of the title character’s birth. In the background, Mona can be heard panicking over whether the baby is healthy. This opening scene establishes that Mona was a manic and overbearing mother from the second that Beau exited the womb.

Mona Lied To Beau About His Father

Mona in a dark hallway in Beau is Afraid

When Beau was a young boy and asked what happened to his absent father, Mona told her son that his dad died during the ejaculation that conceived him. She told Beau that his father’s mid-orgasm demise was the result of a heart murmur that Beau inherited. From that moment on, Beau spent his life convinced that if he gave in to his sexual desires, he would die. This flashback provides a solid backstory for Beau’s sexual fears and insecurities.

Mona Locked A Second Beau In The Attic With His Father

Beau's recurring dream in Beau is Afraid

Throughout Beau is Afraid, Beau suffers from a recurring nightmare in which he is taking a bath and sees himself getting locked in the attic by his mother. When he tried to save himself from being sent into the attic, she told him to get back in the bathtub. After an adult Beau finally got to Mona’s house, she revealed that this wasn’t a dream; it was a memory. When Beau went into the attic to see what was up there, he found an emaciated version of himself – either an alternate version or a forgotten twin – shackled and surrounded by empty food dishes, living with the penis monster.

Beau Fell In Love With Elaine On A Cruise

Beau and his mom on a cruise in Beau is Afraid

When Beau was a teenager, he went on a cruise vacation with Mona. There, he met a girl named Elaine and quickly fell in love with her. Late one night, Elaine burst into Beau’s cabin, confessed her love for him, and told him to wait for her before her mother dragged her away. Beau kept his promise to Elaine and stayed a virgin for decades in the hope of one day reconnecting with her. Elaine’s childhood promise is one of the few things that gave Beau a sense of hope in his life.

Beau Moved To Corrina & Entered Therapy

Beau in a therapy session in Beau is Afraid

When he grew up and left home, Beau moved into a grimy little apartment in the crime-ridden city of Corrina. As his anxiety worsened, he began seeing a therapist, who prescribed an experimental new drug to help with that anxiety. In these therapy sessions, Beau often vented about his mother’s emotional abuse and manipulative behavior. In his first on-screen session, he was preparing to fly to Wasserton to visit his mother on the anniversary of his father’s supposed death. As it turned out, Beau’s therapist was secretly working for his mother the whole time so, ironically, he was in on the manipulation that Beau complained about.

Beau Missed His Flight To Wasserton

Beau on the phone in Beau is Afraid

After his neighbor kept him up all night with loud music, Beau overslept. With there only a couple of hours before his flight to Wasserton, he packed his suitcase and headed for the door in a hurry. As he went back to grab some dental floss, his keys and suitcase were stolen from his door. Since he didn’t want to leave his unlocked apartment unattended, Beau missed his flight, deeply disappointing his mother. Not only did this scene set up Beau’s odyssey to his mother’s house, but it also established that Mona was disappointed by everything Beau did, even things that were out of his control like being robbed.

Mona Faked Her Death

Beau looking at his phone in Beau is Afraid

Mona was so disappointed by Beau missing his flight to visit her that she decided to fake her own death just to torture him emotionally. She beheaded her maid and staged a scene that made it look like a chandelier had fallen and crushed her head. This wild Beau is Afraid twist shows the sadistic lengths that Mona would go to torment her son.

Beau’s Apartment Was Invaded & Vandalized

Beau on scaffolding in Beau is Afraid

While he raced across the street to get some water to take his anxiety pills, Beau’s apartment building was invaded by a crowd of troublemakers who locked him out at the last second. Beau spent the night on some adjacent scaffolding while this crowd had a party in his apartment and trashed the place. This was a prime example of one of Beau’s anxious worst-case scenarios coming true.

Beau Learned His Mother Was Killed By A Chandelier

Beau in an elevator in Beau is Afraid

The next morning, after the party dispersed, Beau returned to his apartment to find a dead body in his doorway and feces smeared all over his walls. As he ran a bath, he tried to call his mother, but the phone was answered by a UPS delivery man, who had arrived to deliver a package and deduced, from the scene left by Mona, that Beau’s mother had been decapitated by a falling chandelier. When he got the news, Beau was so shocked and devastated that he let the bath overflow and flood his living room.

Beau Was Hit By A Food Truck & Stabbed By A Naked Serial Killer

Beau with his hands up in Beau is Afraid

After an intruder fell from the ceiling and landed in the bathtub with him, Beau was so freaked out that he ran naked into the street. There, he was hit by a food truck and then stabbed in the hands and abdomen by a notorious serial killer who committed his crimes in the nude. This was the inciting incident of the Beau is Afraid timeline, and it’s appropriately outlandish as the inciting incident of this uniquely weird story.

Beau Recovered At Grace & Roger’s House

Beau wakes up in Beau is Afraid

Two days later, Beau woke up in the home of Grace and Roger, the couple that ran him over. Although Roger promised to drive Beau to his mother’s funeral, he kept postponing the trip with the excuse that Beau needed to fully recover. Beau slept in the bedroom of Grace and Roger’s teenage daughter, Toni, much to her chagrin. It became clear to Beau that something sinister was going on when Grace warned him not to incriminate himself and informed him that he was under video surveillance.

RELATED: 6 Clues Beau’s Life Was Being Controlled In Beau Is Afraid

Toni Drank Paint & Beau Fled The House

Beau runs away in Beau is Afraid

On the day that Roger had promised to finally take Beau home, Toni tried to force him to paint the walls of her late brother’s bedroom. When he refused to do it, she drank from a paint can to take her own life. When Grace found Beau standing over Toni’s corpse, she berated him and blamed him for her death, at which point he jumped through a window and fled into the nearby woods. Toni’s death and Grace’s ensuing meltdown, all taking place in a dead man’s bedroom, are tied into one of the film’s major themes of grief.

Beau Encountered A Traveling Theater In The Woods

Beau walks through the woods in Beau is Afraid

While fleeing through the woods, Beau came across a traveling theater and was invited to watch their latest play. This is where the Beau is Afraid timeline seemed to flash forward into the future, showing Beau how the rest of his life would play out, but it all happened in Beau’s head as he watched the play. This traveling theater allowed Beau to step outside himself and look at his life from a third-person perspective with some objectivity.

Beau Hitchhiked To Mona’s House

Beau in a doorway in Beau is Afraid

After finally escaping from the woods onto a country road, Beau held out his thumb in the hope of being picked up by a passing motorist. A businessman pulled over to pick up Beau and drove him to his mother’s house, where he’d just missed the funeral service as caterers were packing up and leaving. Hitchhiking marked a hilariously anticlimactic conclusion to Beau’s journey to his mother’s house, and missing the funeral by a couple of hours was an equally anticlimactic payoff.

Beau Had Sex With Elaine & Elaine Died, All While Mona Watched

Elaine looking off-screen in Beau is Afraid

When Elaine arrived at Mona’s house and found that, like Beau, she’d missed the funeral, she and Beau reconnected and ended up having sex in Mona’s bed. For once, Beau’s worst fear didn’t come true. He climaxed and didn’t die of a heart attack, as he’d always worried he would. But, when Elaine had an orgasm, she did die. As Beau rolled off the bed in shock, he discovered that his mother had been watching from the corner of the room the entire time. This reveal cemented Mona as the movie’s monster.

Beau Strangled Mona & Fled The Scene

Mona looking angry in Beau is Afraid

After learning that Mona paid off his therapist to share his sessions with her and had faked her death to torment him, Beau became so enraged that he strangled his mother until she collapsed into a glass cabinet. This scene was the culmination of the issues that Beau had been dealing with and the feelings of hatred toward his mother that he’d been trying to escape. Fearing that he killed his mother, Beau fled the scene and left her estate in a little motorboat.

Beau Was Put On Trial & Killed By An Exploding Motorboat

Beau in a motorboat in Beau is Afraid

The last event on the Beau is Afraid timeline was also the final scene of the movie. After leaving Mona’s estate in a motorboat, Beau sailed through a cave and found himself in the middle of a big arena, surrounded by spectators, while Mona and her lawyer presented a case against him. A jumbotron displayed video evidence of Beau slighting his mother, and his own attorney was brutally murdered while trying to defend him. While begging for mercy, Beau was killed by the boat’s exploding motor. From the beginning, this seemed like Beau’s inevitable foreshadowed fate. He lived his life in dread, constantly worried that something like this would happen.

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