Movie #53 2020: You Were Never Really Here (2017)

From the first shot, the direction in this movie is wonderful. Lynne Ramsay is one hell of a force and I simply can’t wait to see what she does next. It is absolutely no surprise that You Were Never Really Here was so well received at Cannes.

This is a movie of poignance and epic character work. Chiefly, the story entails an ex-mercenary with PTSD (played by Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix) who is recruited to find the kidnapped daughter of an important politician. With the sweeping backdrop which is its beautiful musical score, every frame of this movie is delicious.

Despite there being some scenes of extreme gore and violence, Ramsay counterbalances them with pieces that are unmistakably stunning. Even the simplicity of a shot in which a hammer swings on the shelf of a DIY store is uncharacteristically beautiful. The entire movie could be used as part of a university lesson in perfect camerawork.

Whilst we’re on cinematography, there is a sequence set at a lake (both beside it and within it) that is without doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s worth noting that I only watched this on my TV – it’s a good TV, but still – so I can only imagine how breath-taking it would have looked on the big screen. Even just thinking about it now makes me heart beat faster. It is utterly glorious.

Once again, Phoenix gives an immaculate performance. I strongly believe that this is the role that put him in contention to play The Joker. And yes, I’m including his performance in Walk The Line as coming second to this. Obviously he is excellent in James Mangold‘s sixth feature-length film, but there’s something about his role in this movie that is equivalent to his performance in Joker. In this piece, he showcases how well he can portray the full spectrum of human emotion so effortlessly that I have no doubt it contributed to his casting as the multi-faceted Joker.

What is most appreciated about You Were Never Really Here is that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Its shorter than average run time of 89 minutes manages to include everything it needs to within its allocated time, which is rare as so many movies today include way too much fluff.

Although I don’t feel compelled to rewatch this one as of yet, it’s possible it may cross my path in the future and it would be one I’d be happy to revisit. (This is quite the compliment, as I rewatch so few)!

You Were Never Really Here is available to stream on Netflix UK.

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