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You Were Never Really Here (2017)

by The Media Diorama

You Were Never Really Here, simply put, is a stunning piece of cinema. Warning: this review will excessively use the adjective “phenomenal”. Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. Phenomenally directed, acted and written. This phenomenal indie thriller will leave you breathless. An incredibly rare achievement to leave me hypnotised long after the credits roll, but Lynne Ramsay’s latest intrusive yet intimate character study did that and then some.

Centralising on Joe, a war veteran suffering from PTSD, who accepts a job to retrieve a politician’s kidnapped daughter from a brothel. However, in doing so, he risks the safety of his mother and his own life. This showcases Ramsay’s supremely defiant directing style. Every scene, every camera movement and every little detail is a finely tuned mechanism to a large machine. The entire picture exudes confidence, such bold directing choices that elevates this above other indie titles. The visceral violence and bleak events that occur create several thrilling moments, but the palpable tension is illustrated through the character of Joe. A damaged man addicted to pain killers to deal with his hallucinogenic illusions that tamper with his sanity.

Ramsay’s screenplay never belittles him into an unlikeable state, the behests he accepts actually retains his humanity whilst portraying the excessive violence. All phenomenally played by Joaquin Phoenix who many consider to be one of the best actors working today. With this, I completely agree. Dialogue is kept to a minimum yet the amount of expression just from his face and body language was phenomenal. Jonny Greenwood’s unsettling and intrusive score only adds to the heightened state of mind that the narrative conveys. Just utterly enthralling. My eyes never left the screen once.

The ambiguous ending was the icing on the cake, solidifying its indie origins. Beautiful and horrific simultaneously. A perfect juxtaposition that illustrates the themes and technical talent conveyed through this phenomenal film. Cannot recommend this enough.