Quick Hit: Phoenix continues to transform himself and, coupled with strong directing, sells every part of this film.
Lynne Ramsay has a fantastic film on her hands, and should be very proud of it. In this film, we follow Joe (Joaquin Phoenix – seemingly huge and filling every inch of the screen and sporting an impressive beard), a man for hire in a world of despicable things. Joe seems to specialize in rescuing people from sex trafficking circles, but he doesn’t seem to be the same as Liam Neeson in Taken or even a slick agent from the MI films. He doesn’t have gadgets, and rarely even seems to work with a gun. Instead, he goes in and is shabbily dressed, often just in a hoodie. He doesn’t go for the guns, instead preferring something like a ballpeen hammer.
You Were Never Really Here is an extremely confident film. This is because the film is set up to have some confusing event in it. Joe is a veteran, and obviously suffers from PTSD of a sort. This manifests itself on the screen as Joe having to remove himself from everything. Ramsay navigates this wonderfully, sometimes driving back, sometimes just moving the screen so that Joe seems much smaller than his imposing size. And throughout it all, we maintain the narrative – Joe is trying to rescue a girl, even if there might be more to it than just the job.
There are a number of violent interludes in YWNRH – but rarely do they ever have enough violence that it distracts from the images that Ramsay is trying to present. Joe is horribly damaged, but lives with his mother, taking care of her. Eventually she is brought into the fold, and Joe handles this as he has handled everything else in the film. In probably the most harrowing part of the film, after mortally wounding an enemy, Joe stays with him as he dies, even keeping him company by lying on the ground near him. It’s an emotionally charged scene that shows Phoenix’s true range despite displaying a consistent blank of a face.
There’s not a lot else I want to say about this film, besides that I really enjoyed it. I think that the score was award nomination material – Greenwood perfectly sets the mood for a different type of film right off the bat, and Ramsay’s strong direction carries it totally forward. I’m giving You Were Never Really Here an “A-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"