The best things come to those who wait and, well it was worth it. You Were Never Here is a tour de force both in front and behind of the camera. In her trademark style of character examination, Lynne Ramsay gives us a short and shocking stylised film that invades all the senses. It’s been 9 years since We Need To Talk About Kevin and she’s back with You Were Never Really Here. This should have been nominated for a number of Oscars but, oh well ok. It is an incredible and relentless story and under two hours long – hurrah.
You Were Never Really Here tells the story of an army veteran, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) who specialises in finding lost people and tying up loose ends. From the start you’re thrown right into the action, no explanation you’re just trying to figure out is why the protagonist going to kill himself, will he ever overcome his demons.
The cinematography by Thomas Townsend is luminous. It truly captures something – whilst brutal and relentless – it is beautiful to watch. The violence that is shown never feels gratuitous and that is possibly down to it being shown through a female gaze. When Joe goes on the rampage in a building used by paedophiles – the actual violence is shown through security cameras so we are watching the camera footage rather than being right directly in the rampage. This does not in any way diminish the power of the scene, strangely it enhances it. Yet there are so many tender moments as well especially between Joe and his mother when they are watching the television and then later in the film when he discovers an unspeakable horror.
Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his career best performances in this film. The script is sparse and has very little dialogue, yet the audience intuitively understands what is being shown on screen and this down to Joaquin’s performance.
The subject matter and the fragmented way in which the film is presented will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. You will question how much of it was real and what was in the mind of Joe and that is the mark of great art – it generates discussion.
You Were Never Really Here opens in cinemas across the UK on Friday 9 March.
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