You Were Never Really Here (2018) – Review

You Were Never Really Here is now playing in theaters.

By I. Simon

I was introduced to Lynne Ramsay’s filmography not too long ago when I first saw her previous film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, which I found to be not only an amazing film, but a very fresh take on being a parent of a child with a mental illness. Since seeing said film, I was very much looking forward to You Were Never Really Here. Not only was I anticipating the film because Ramsay was helming it, but also because Joaquin Phoenix (Her, The Master) was leading the cast, and Radiohead member & Phantom Thread composer, Jonny Greenwood, composed the score. Overall, there were quite a few ingredients to make a great movie, and not only did You Were Never Really Here well surpass my expectations, but it has some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in recent memory.

Written & directed by Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a former FBI agent turned contract killer with PTSD, who tracks down missing girls for a living. He is then hired to rescue a young girl from a prostitution ring, which leads to him uncovering a conspiracy.

Lynne Ramsay’s writing & direction are nothing short of incredible. Ramsay perfectly gets us invested in the film without the use of a bunch of exposition, and perfectly sets this raw and gritty tone right from the beginning of the film. Rather than making a generic revenge thriller, Ramsay decides to deconstruct the thriller genre and instead focuses on Joe as a character, and treats PTSD with respect. Sure, his PTSD may not be explored in extreme depth, but it is explored more than enough for me to care about him. Ramsay also uses plenty of visual storytelling as well, and when there is dialogue, every single bit of it works. Just from brief shots, we learn more and more about Joe, which caused me to sympathize with him greatly. While the film may seem like some scenes were cut as it mostly commits to being a character study following Joe, the narrative still works flawlessly, and I was always able to follow what is happening.

Every single production value of You Were Never Really Here works perfectly. Jonny Greenwood’s score may very well be his best yet, and not only is it an incredible score on its own, but it perfectly helps set the tone for the film. As for the other technical elements, Thomas Townend’s cinematography is excellent, Joe Bini’s editing is practically flawless, the way that sound design is used is incredible, and the way the film captures New York City is so authentic. All of these technical elements combined with Lynne Ramsay’s top-notch direction makes for an experience full of tension and discomfort.

Despite all of those elements, You Were Never Really Here doesn’t work without Joaquin Phoenix, who gives a phenomenal performance that may very well be the best performance of his career, as well as one of the best performances of the decade. He perfectly portrays Joe’s PTSD, his heartbreaking past, and his determination to save the missing girl. It’s a raw performance full of depth and nuance, absolutely deserving of the Best Actor win at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

All in all, You Were Never Really Here is by far the best 2018 release I have seen so far, and I will not be surprised if it remains that way for the rest of 2018. Lynne Ramsay has outdone herself, creating a masterpiece of cinema that features some of the best filmmaking I’ve seen in recent memory, proving that she may very well be one of the best filmmakers working today. I cannot recommend You Were Never Really Here highly enough. It is a phenomenal film, and is most definitely up there with Taxi Driver as one of the best character studies ever made.

I give You Were Never Really Here an A+.


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