With Lynne Ramsay directing, Joaquin Phoenix starring & Johnny Greenwood providing the score, You were never really here was always going to find a rapt audience in this writers house.
I’ve followed Ramsay’s career from the beginning.
I actually wrote a review of her short film Gasman for a University paper.
She is a true visionary who has arguably never made a poor film. Granted she only has four features to her name.
Jonny Greenwood happens to be the guitarist of my favourite band Radiohead.
His original and startling musical accompaniments can elevate the blandest of films to a whole other stratosphere
As for Joaquin. I could watch him in pretty much anything.
He plays the main character, Joe.
Joe’s got more than a few issues.
He’s a veteran suffering from PTSD.
He regularly has nightmares about a brutal encounter in his childhood.
He attempts or fantasises about suicide on more than one occasion throughout the movie.
Not to mention he’s a gun for hire.
Joe’s regular clients are the parents of young girls trafficked into sexual slavery.
He not only retrieves the girls, he metes out some justice to their abductors.
His weapon of choice is a ball peen hammer.
He mercilessly smashes the faces of traffickers & johns or anyone else who happen to get in his way.
When he’s not rescuing runaways, Joe spends time with his ailing mother (Judith Roberts) in their crumbling Brooklyn apartment.
When we first meet Judith she can’t sleep after having just watched Psycho.
Joe is in many ways reminiscent of Psycho’s, Norman Bates & that other consummate cinematic loner Travis Bickle.
You were never really here has been compared to Taxi Driver more than once & it ain’t difficult to see why.
An isolated, fragile, damaged & violent man stalks the street of New York City trying to save underage girls from the hands of despicable pimps & padophiles
Unlike Travis, Joe doesn’t seem to take any real satisfaction from his vigilante work. He merely does what he’s told, pockets the money. Rinses. Repeats.
Like De Niro did with Bickle, Phoenix brings a real vulnerability to someone we all would ordinarily see as a reprehensible character.
This makes for a very fascinating movie.
Despite it’s slight running time, there is more than enough going on to keep you riveted.
Ramsay doesn’t particularly care about the plot or where it’s heading and that isn’t a bad thing.
She’s more invested in Phoenix’s performance. The spectacular visuals & Ramsay’s unrivalled imagination ignites one of cinemas brightest films in years.
Phoenix as Joe is simply incredible. He devours a perplexing character with great aplomb. He never gives us time to rest.
The actor hasn’t been this good since Two Lovers. That particular film is very underrated & well worth checking out.
Those who adore Radiohead are in for a treat.
Johnny Greenwood’s captavating score drives the story forward in ways you could never imagine.
The music is at times chaotic. Other times sparse.
It is always spellbinding.
This review would be remiss to mention the breathtaking, dreamlike cinematography of Thomas Townsend.
Ramsay’s vision could only become reality due to Townsend’s brilliance.
The only misstep in the script (adapted from the Jonathan Ames novel of the same name) is the reveal of the main baddie. I didn’t buy it.
In spite of this, You were never really here is concise, brutal, exhilarating & pretty much unmissable.
The film is out now in Budapest.