Title: You Were Never Really Here
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Judith Anna Roberts
Runtime: 1 hr 29 mins
What It Is: Joe is a deeply traumatized individual who suffers severe PTSD from a literally scarring and abusive childhood, and his time as a soldier and FBI agent. He is a troubled and largely broken individual and makes a living rescuing girls from the sex trade. And he is ruthless and brilliant at what he does. After reading the book—and the film captures him perfectly—I concluded he is probably the scariest good guy I’ve ever read/seen.
What We Think: Lynne Ramsay tells Joe’s story in a stunning mosaic style, and it is a visual and aural experience beyond what many films ever manage to achieve. If you don’t pay close attention to every detail, if you don’t invest enough to read into what you’re seeing, this film will likely be a strange and empty (yet no less frightening) experience. But beneath the movement of the story is the film’s heart and an explanation for the tenderness that lies beneath the character of Joe. The visual storytelling is a thing of artistic wonder, an accomplishment of incredible editing and sound design and stylish visual sensibility. You Were Never Really Here dares assault your senses, all the while it is gorgeously, harmoniously brutal and beautiful and savage and tender. The score is so powerful and commanding, filled with such attitude and beauty and, at times, deeply moving tenderness to match the film’s emotional undercurrents and rhythms. At other times it is a reckoning, a burning fire.
Our Rating: A+, The novel upon which You Were Never Really Here is based, and to which it is remarkably faithful in capturing the spirit and character, is a brutal and thoughtful piece of noir. The plot is dark and compelling, but it is the character of Joe that makes the story what it is. This is something Lynne Ramsay and Joaquin Phoenix clearly understood in the crafting of this film. And it is what helps elevate it from a masterpiece of filmmaking to a masterpiece of storytelling. And Lynne Ramsay is helplessly an artist, and she is at the height of her creative powers in this film. From the film’s visual and artistic style, which comes together increasingly and with a sense of narrative purpose and intent, to the film’s auditory assault both in how it blares and overloads to how it drops and whispers intimately, it’s as though You Were Never Really Here could never have been made by anyone else, could never have succeeded as anything other than exactly what it is. As an adaptation it is perfect, and as a film, it is its own unique and resounding piece of art. It isn’t simply my favorite film of the year by far, it is also, instantly, one of my favorite films that I have ever experienced. It resonated with me deeply, powerfully, and contains one of the most sublime sequences I’ve ever experienced in a film. It is also brutal and thrilling and dark and beautiful. I’ve seen it four times already, and already eagerly await my next viewing… and the next, and the next, and the next.