Title – You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Director – Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
Cast – Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov
Plot – Brutal enforcer and ex-solider Joe (Phoenix) must find and free enslaved teenage girl Nina (Samsonov) after she is taken in by a shady and corrupt underground organisation.
“If she’s there, I’ll get her back”
Review by Eddie on 18/09/2018
The fourth film of Lynne Ramsay’s critically acclaimed career that has spanned over twenty years, You Were Never Really Here is the Scottish filmmaker’s first feature since 2011’s stunning We Need to Talk About Kevin and is another highly original and likely polarizing experience that will divide viewers between those that love and those that hate Ramsay’s examination of PTSD and the demons that can plague one’s mental state.
Adapting Jonathan Adams book, Ramsay cares little for making Here a typical cinematic experience and while the trailer’s for this Cannes winning experience would make it seem like something of a typical gruff criminal turned kind-hearted human caring for the well-being of a child, Here is anything but an experience that can be easily summed up.
In a turn that has won many critical plaudits and the award for best actor at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Here focuses its attention on a bearded Joaquin Phoenix as the tormented Joe, an army/FBI veteran who now spends his days tracking down missing girls and enacting violent revenge attacks on the perpetrators with his trusty hammer and Joe is a complicated and layered creation that allows Ramsay to give Here a fever dream like state of mind as we follow Joe down a dark path that leads him to a life turning run in with missing politician’s daughter Nina Votto.
Guided by Ramsay behind the camera and accompanied by another haunting and untraditional score by Radiohead band member Johnny Greenwood, Here never once falls into a mood or vibe that will make you as a viewer feel comfortable with where things are at and it’s clear that Ramsay didn’t want us to ever get lulled into a sense of security with where things are going in this otherworldly like journey.
Phoenix is brilliant in his role as Joe, a man we learn little about but a man we gather through brief and deliberately confusing flashbacks had both a troubled and violent childhood and some traumatic experiences in his time in the army and FBI and his commitment to his craft can’t be faltered here, even if comparisons for his role and the film as a whole to Taxi Driver feel a little over the top considering this is a hard film to gel with emotionally.
Doing so much right you do begin to wish around the halfway mark of Here’s runtime that you felt more of a connection and attachment to the characters within the film and while Ramsay was no doubt uninterested in creating the usual feature film fair, further establishment of Joe and in particular his brief relationship with Nina would’ve been highly beneficial to a film that is both hauntingly beautiful and captivating when all clicks at once.
Final Say –
A confronting, raw and honest examination of the traumas of PTSD and mental demons, You Were Never Really Here is another fine addition to the Ramsay filmography and the continued good work of Phoenix but with its cold delivery, the film fails to engage on an emotional level that would’ve made it something very special indeed.
3 ½ water burials out of 5