You Were Never Really Here
Written & Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Based on the book by: Jonathan Ames
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Dante Pereira-Olson, Judith Roberts, and Larry Canady
Run Time: 1h 30min
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Though some may view this as painfully slow in the beginning, I see it more as art being created before your very eyes. With any piece of art, it takes time to make it come to life and why should a film be any different? Slow and lacking in story and structure is different, this builds to a magnificent climax and with its gorgeous cinematography, noteworthy performances and memorable plot, you won’t leave feeling disillusioned. In fact, if you like Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’ this is definitely the film for you. Joaquin Phoenix plays, Joe, his version of Scorsese’s Travis Bickle. Phoenix plays him much in the same way that DeNiro played Travis. He’s raw and unkept but Joe isn’t disturbed. He’s haunted, yes, but he has clear goals and will do anything to meet them, especially when they get personal. Phoenix won in Cannes for the film and I believe he’ll be rewarded here, too.
Joe’s past, shown to us in snippets of macabre flashbacks, has led him to perform very dark things but for good reason. He is an advocate of sorts, hired to help people, mostly little girls who were abducted or are runaways, break free of the sex trade they’re forced into… and he’s exceptional at his job. His preferred method of taking people out is a hammer and when we first meet him, he’s cleaning up a crime scene, indicating to us he’s methodical, careful and very professional. He also takes care of his elderly mother and from the flashbacks, it seems she’s all he’s ever had. With his next assignment, helping a politician’s daughter escape the clutches of a sex maniac, he ends up putting his mother’s and his own life in jeopardy. The film was directed by a female director, Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) which could be why Joe, though a killer, conveys such loving and caring characteristics. You’ll sense great sorrow and warmth inside of him and take pity.
I don’t want to give too much away but there’s a scene when Joe’s in a lake. He’s sinking to the bottom for a reason I won’t tell you here but it’s handled so beautifully, so poetically, that it brings you to the brink of tears. As an audience member, you take on Joe’s anguish and heartache. It’s a spectacular look at this character and a shot you may never forget. His relationship with his charges may seem to get in the way of his missions but then you realize those relationships are the missions. He may be saving them but, in essence, when all is said and done, they are saving him.
Don’t miss this fascinating film for anything. I can’t stress this enough. Enjoy the fact that Ramsay takes some time to paint you the full picture… it’s worth it. You’ll like the soundtrack that accompanies the film, as well. The ending is somewhat vague but had it drifted on a definitive course, it wouldn’t have fit the style. Go see this asap!