Cert: TBC Runtime: 95 mins Director: Lynne Ramsay Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman and Judith Roberts
Lynne Ramsay brings her Cannes fan favourite You Were Never Really Here to LFF. We Need to Talk About Kevin was her last film, and if that is anything to go by we are in for a treat. Joaquin Phoenix knows how to pick a film and this seems like a Joaquin classic choice. It has been dubbed the Taxi Driver of the 21st century, with a tag line like this you have to watch it. What is You Were Never Really Here about then? Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire, specialising in saving victims from child sex rings and living at home with his ailing mother. When Nina, a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl (Ekaterina Samsonov). Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.
Lynne Ramsay take a bow, You Were Never Really Here is a tour de force at LFF this year. I’ve had to watch Ramsay’s adrenaline filled masterpiece twice. This was to ensure that I will have my fill until it’s actual release day. From the opening scene we are inside Joe’s mind and body. He has had a harrowing journey in life but he has good intentions for the innocent of the world. What elevates You Were Never Really Here is Jonny Greenwood’s electrifying score. The beat takes you on a pulsating journey through the dark underbelly of this horrible world. Ramsay’s direction and narrative has elevated You Were Never Really here from a simple action/thriller into a dark and thought provoking noir. You won’t see slow motion shots, fast paced gun-slinging or scantly clad ladies. This is a tale of man fighting his own personal demons while saving an innocent child, The CCTV sequence in particular is a sequence I adore. It’s such a simple effective method and Ramsay captures it effortlessly. She has woven the tale to perfection, you have no real moments of obviousness in the narrative. You have to pay attention to the finer details throughout to understand Joe’s past. Simplicity elevates You Were Never Really here into a masterpiece and Lynne Ramsay’s finest work to date.
Joaquin Phoenix gives one of his finest performances since The Master here. His mental and physical preparation can be felt through out. You tend to forget this is Joaquin most of the time, it’s just Joe. There is a Travis Bickle feel to Phoenix but Joe is his own character. The scene in the sauna in particular is nothing but stupendous. His transition is pure cinema and closer view into his mind. Ekatarina Samsonov gives a top performance too. Limited screen time was her only issue, but she truly is Joe’s driving force in this journey. Her awareness of the role is astounding, especially the dinner table scene. You Were Never Really Here is a masterpiece. The depiction of PTSD and trauma is un-paralleled. It’s simple, effective and leaves the audience thinking. It isn’t for the faint at heart, but it will boil your blood and give you heart palpitations.