Monday, 23 July 2018

You Were Never Really Here: NZIFF Review

You Were Never Really Here: NZIFF Review


Director Lynne Ramsay's thriller is bathed in brutality, but also beaten down in humanity.

A hooded, hulking and haunted Joaquin Phoenix is Joe, a hitman former veteran, whose specialty is saving children from sex rings.

Aside from the repugnance of his day job, Joe spends the time outside of the job looking after his mother, who's ailing and in need of care.

But when Joe's called in to a kidnapping of a US senator, what he believes is a cut-and-dry job turns into something a lot more personal - and potentially fatal.

Based on the 2013 Jonathan Ames' novel, Ramsay's sparsity with the camera work and the hallucinatory material within works masterfully for You Were Never Really Here.
You Were Never Really Here: NZIFF Review

It's aided by a sterling turn by Phoenix, whose intensity is suited to the anger contained within Joe as he dispatches his law-breakers with a hammer. But Phoenix also makes a case for real tenderness in terms of his interaction with his mother and also the victims of the child sex rings.

It's these touches which lift You Were Never Really Here out of the darkness that it inhabits.

Ramsay (who did We Need To Talk About Kevin) keeps things taut and interesting throughout - rather than fixating on the violent means of despatching, she angles the camera away from proceedings.

When Joe breaks into a hotel to free his victims, CCTV footage shows the scene but cuts just before the method of murder is revealed; equally a desperate fight on the floor is depicted through a ceiling mirror - it's impressive stuff that's not too showy, but very effective.

It helps with the disorientation too, as You Were Never Really Here has an overall feeling of thrilling wooziness as it plays out.

Greatly enhanced by a turn from Phoenix that keeps you riveted as the conspiracy plays out, You Were Never Really Here is as much of a trip for the audience as it is on screen.

It may be a trip to a seedy underbelly, but thanks to Ramsay and Phoenix, it's a trip that's well worth taking.

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