You Were Never Really Here

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a troubled war veteran and basically a hired gun, specializing in the finding and retrieving of missing and trafficked young girls. He lives with his elderly mother (Judith Roberts), who is the only person left in his life. And once you start seeing what’s in his head, you’ll understand why. He’s haunted by flashbacks, riddled with PTSD. It’s rough stuff, and it’s hard to keep straight. It actually appears hard for him to keep straight, and as he grapples with thoughts of suicide and questions of sanity, it seems his past might be catching up with him.

But the present’s not much better. His next job is to rescue Nina, a 13 year old girl MV5BNDQwOGQyYTMtNTc2MS00Nzg3LTgyMjctOWFmM2YzZWE3YTBlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_being held in a brothel. Her father works for the government and doesn’t want to get police involved. And if Joe could, you know, fuck up the men who did this to her, he’d be pleased. But walking a mile in Joe’s boots is never straight forward. He’s plagued by violent images, by death, by his own abusive childhood.

Once the killing starts, it doesn’t end, and Joe is basically a zombie, barely evading death, and barely caring. Writer-director Lynne Ramsay keeps us off kilter with static-y flashbacks. We’re as unbalanced as Joe is, and we’re unable to really trust everything we see. It’s disorienting and clever, unhinged and a little scary since we never know what we’re walking into. It’s gory, or course, likely enough blood to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but we start to feel anesthetized to it because Joe barely registers it. Joaquin Phoenix really sells it. He sells a man who stopped caring about himself a long time ago. Who doesn’t trust his own reality, and isn’t particularly bothered by it. He suffers from these violent memories but nothing really jolts him from his stupor. It’s a great performance. And Ramsay somehow manages to evoke sympathy for this wounded soldier. She makes this action movie something special, something worth watching, even if the finished product is rather like a nightmare.

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19 thoughts on “You Were Never Really Here

      1. The Inner Circle

        Yeah,Crispin doesn’t get nearly the chances to play these kind of roles like Phoenix does.
        My favorite Nic Cage movie had Phoenix in another quirky role….”8MM”. That was the film Cage should have won his Oscar for…..haunting as hell.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. raistlin0903

    I would definitely go and watch this one for Phoenix alone. He is such a terrific actor and it’s been a while since I have last seen him. I think this is one of those roles that fits him perfectly 😊😊

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  2. ninvoid99

    I’m still waiting for my local library to get this film on DVD as it’s Lynne Ramsay. She is pretty much one of the best filmmakers working today as I’ll watch anything she does.

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  3. Carrie Rubin

    Great review. Son and I really liked this one. Joaquin Phoenix was superb in it. I told my son that if they had cast Phoenix in the Death Wish remake instead of Bruce Willis, Death Wish would have been a much better movie.

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  4. J.

    Really quite fancy this one, so this is a very welcome thumbs up. He’s been on a roll since Her, eh? Well and truly made up for the fake retirement shenanigans.

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  5. Liz A.

    I dislike movies where I’m not sure what’s “real”. It’s hard enough keeping up with most narratives without wondering if something on screen is “really happening”.

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