#REVIEW: “YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
When Director Lynne Ramsey’s Film YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival in its still unfinished form, not only did the Movie receive a seven-minute standing ovation, it wound up garnering awards for Joaquin Phoenix as Best Actor and Best Screenplay for Ramsey. Adapted from a Jonathan Ames Novella, the Movie is a hypnotic, gut-punch Thriller that explores the psyche of a disturbed assassin for hire.
Joe (played by Phoenix) is a heavily-bearded loner with a buffed body who we first meet cleaning-up after completing a job. He is a killer for hire and his weapon of choice is a hammer which he painstakingly cleans the blood from. And via flashbacks interspersed throughout the Film, we learn he had a violent childhood, as well as stints in the military and a law enforcement careers. All three circumstances were tragic and brutal and shaped the man he has become, a fearless loner who flirts with self-asphyxiation and uncomfortable knife play. The only humanity he shows is when he is with his ailing mother with whom he shares a home in Brooklyn; even then, the humour between them includes a reference to Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Hired by a senator to free a young girl kidnapped by a sex trade ring catering to pedophiles, we are now neck deep in a world of seediness as we watch Joe meticulously prepare to accomplish this deed. The results are grisly and hypnotic and Ramsey excels here. It is repulsive, yet compelling to watch as the entire event and slaughter is shown from the building’s security cameras vantage points. Extreme violence begets extreme violence and the aftermath of this event leads to even more death.
It is almost impossible to watch YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE without seeing the parallels to Taxi Driver. Both are set in New York City and centers on underage sex trade and politicians. Yet Ramsey’s vision is more poetic and not as gratuitous. The Score by Jonny Greenwood brilliantly enhances the tension. Phoenix’s performance is revelatory as it is fierce and uncompromising. It is virtually impossible not to be swept away in his gaze, his walk, his intensity. A compelling triumph.
Elevation Pictures release YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE Friday, April 13, 2018 in select cities.