You Were Never Really Here (2018)
Critic Consensus: Bracingly elevated by a typically committed lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here confirms writer-director Lynne Ramsay as one of modern cinema's most unique -- and uncompromising -- voices.
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Critic Reviews for You Were Never Really Here
What it lacks in straightforward narrative structure, it makes up for in chest-level punch, and "You Were Never Really Here" lands like a blow to the sternum.
You Were Never Really Here is not a film that particularly wants you to "like" it. But with its highbrow talent and arty flourishes, it all but dares you to admit that you disliked it. Challenge accepted.
[Phoenix], the mumbling master of smug self-indulgence, dons another layer of Emperor's new duds to favor us with a performance as subtle as a fart in a sardined elevator and twice as odiferous.
In a case of trying to run before knowing how to walk, Ramsay tries to make a different kind of action movie without bothering to master the rudiments of the form.
Joaquin Phoenix has never been shy about going big if the role called for it -- and maybe even if the role didn't necessarily call for it -- but his performance here ranks as one of his best because of what happens between the outbursts.
Audience Reviews for You Were Never Really Here
Defying expectations with an atypical hitman thriller, Lynne Ramsay creates a surprising character study that benefits from an exceptional performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Full review on filmotrope. com
Normally when I feel like recommending a movie to someone, it's due to the fact that I feel it will either appeal to a specific audience or just please everyone on a board scale. Quite honestly, although I'll be praising this film as I go along, I'm not quite sure who the audience will be for this movie. You Were Never Really Here is based on the novel of the same name and while I haven't read it, I believe this film is a nice representation of it, as it's simply a great film overall. Yes, the imagery is bizarre and the performances throughout the film may seem a little too realistic that they become off-putting, but these are all things that I found to be fascinating about it. If you're up to the task of watching a movie like this, here's why I think it's terrific. You Were Never Really Here follows a man in Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) as he is both haunted by his past and trying to straighten out his current life. Tasked with a job of looking for missing girls and taking down anyone in his path, this brings up memories that he's not too fond of. Told in a linear manner while also flashing back through weird visuals or direct scenes, this is a film that asks you to be entranced by it from start to finish. If you think imagery is just imagery when it comes to a director trying to express certain emotions through the camera, rather than dialogue, then this movie definitely isn't for you. Joaquin Phoenix is magnificent as Joe and quite frankly probably the best I've seen from him in years. From his subtle facial expression when a scene with his mother is taking place, to the very notion that he truly cares about everyone in his life, no matter how evil he may seem at times, Phoenix was able to present many emotions throughout the course of this movie. Not that I related to this character, but his thoughts on just wanting to do the right thing felt very relatable for many viewers to attach themselves to. From its visuals to its performances, I was blown away by this film, but this is where I draw the line of possible issues. You Were Never Really Here is the sort of film that gives you many amazing things, but also showcases a few too many depressing sequences and the visual storytelling gives you everything you need upon first viewing, at least in my opinion. This is a must watch movie in my eyes, but I can't see myself ever needing to revisit it. I also appreciate a film that's well-shot and well-edited, which is exactly what is provided throughout this movie, so that was an added bonus that had me applauding every few minutes. In the end, You Were Never Really Here is a fantastic piece of independent cinema and the perfect example of a movie that not enough people can get into or even come across, due to the overabundance of blockbusters in theatres these days. Whether or not you have read the source material that this film is based on, I highly recommend checking out this film if you can stomach a few brutal images, some very sad representations of the real world, and a huge wake up call throughout the final act that brought me to tears. You Were Never Really Here isn't for you unless you're into auteurist filmmaking like I am at times, but it's a great story to invest yourself in regardless, which is why when considering everyone,I think I nearly loved this movie.
After only four films - Ratcatcher, Morven Callar, We Need to Talk About Kevin and You Were Never Really Here, it's now apparent that Scottish director Lynne Ramsay has managed to forge her own particular style. She's also a director that's so focused on her own approach that she won't just bow down to studio pressures as her proposed adaptation of The Lovely Bones will attest to and her ill-fated vision for Jane Got a Gun - both films that she walked away from despite being heavily involved in the initial stages. Her latest, You Were Never Really Here, is somewhat the perfect example of her uncompromising approach and how powerful her bad-assitude can play out on screen when she's left to express her own vision. Plot: Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran with PTSD who is completely unafraid of violence. This makes him the best hired gun when it comes to tracking down missing girls for a living. Sometimes he's even employed because of his brutal reputation and his effortless ability to hurt the perpetrators when he catches up with them. However, when Joe is employed to find Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) the innocent 13-year-old daughter of an ambitious New York senator (Alex Manette), he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that spirals out of control. Lynne Ramsay herself has said that she often doesn't understand the plot synopses of this film as they don't quite capture what the film is actually like. I've been just as guilty of that as others have in what I've written above and I can completely understand her feelings on this. Any synopsis is just a general overview and can never encapsulate a films mood, characterisation or artistry. It's like saying that Drive is just about a getaway driver - it's not and for anyone who's seen it will know that the languid pace, the cinematography, the mood and the score are just as important to the film as any plot developments. In terms of plot this shares some similarities with Nicolas Winding Refn's aforementioned film; it's a literary adaptation, it's about one man's crusade to rescue someone in need and they're both directed by Europeans who have entered into the American market. The biggest comparison, however, is that the plot is secondary to the overall composition. The reminder of the plot is actually Liam Neeson in Taken. Don't be disheartened, though, as this is a very different film and it's a perfect example of how a story can essentially be regurgitated and work even better when it has a quality director behind it. This isn't your standard Hollywood schtick where Phoenix runs around dishing out the knuckle-sandwichs or talking like a Neeson-esque tough guy. To be fair, Taken has it's place among the action genre and appeals to the masses but the more discerning viewer will appreciate Ramsay's film much, much more. There are action scenes involved here but that's not Ramsay's primary focus. If anything when she delivers them she does so in a brutal and unrelenting way that it's far from the glorification of Hollywood violence. Ramsay makes no bones about being more focused on character and it's here that Joaquin Phoenix excels. Phoenix has been on great form recently; his outstanding performances in The Master, Her and Inherent Vice have been some of the best flawed individual performances for the past few years and his work here can be included among them. Phoenix's Joe is a hulking brute who prefers to serve out his vigilante justice with a ball-peen hammer but it's not just as simple as that. Joe has his own issues. A former war veteran who's scarred body reflects the scars and inner turmoil of his mind and this coupled with his own traumatic childhood leave him in a permanent state of suicidal despair where we regularly witness him pushing himself to edge as he asphyxiates himself with a plastic bag and dangles daggers into his mouth. What's most striking about Phoenix's performance, however, is that he has very little dialogue. The bulk of his communication is purely physical and Ramsay has a keen eye and inventive means in which to make Joe a very damaged but powerful presence. Complimenting Ramsay's measured and deliberate filmmaking is Jonny Greenwood's deeply affecting score. As Ramsay imbues the film with hallucinatory and elliptical imagery, Greenwood symbiotically ebbs and flows alongside, contributing to not only the emotional state of our lead character but to the entire film as a whole. It's this meeting of minds that contribute to how successfully the film becomes its own beast. It has been likened to a modern-day Taxi Driver and I can see the comparison (again in terms of plot) but Ramsay puts her own stamp on the proceedings and manages to turn a conventional narrative into something more inventive, artistic and unconventional. A raw, brutal and uncomprising revenge thriller that may well be Lynne Ramsay's best film thus far. It received a seven-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival premiere with Ramsay winning the award for Best Screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix winning for Best Actor. Although I'm happy about this, others may not see what the fuss is all about. It's unconventionality and enigmatic style may ostracise some viewers but, personally, that's what I found so intriguing. Mark Walker
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