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You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here (2018)

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Writer: Lynne Ramsay
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov
Production Company: Why Not Productions

I was more excited to see You Were Never Really Here than any other film I've seen this year. That's not to say that I expected it to be the best film of the year, but from what I heard about it it sounded right up my alley. And it was.

Story: A middle-aged, ex-military man named Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) spends his days tracking down young girls for their parents, and he's willing to get violent if they're in some kind of trouble. At night, however, he returns to his home with his mother and is a relatively good son. After starting what he thought would be a fairly simple job, an event happens that completely changes everything, and he is forced down a very interesting, and brutal, path.

This is a dark and violent story. And I say story because a lot of the actual brutality isn't shown. There's a very violent scene that's shown through security cameras, which lessens the blow of the scene. Also, a lot of the kills are also shown in ways that let the audience know what is happening but don't show them all of the blows like some other films do, such as Drive. I'm not opposed to this kind of stuff being shown on-screen, but I really respect the decision by the director to have such a brutal story but not necessarily show all of the brutality to the audience. I think a big reason for this choice is because the audience isn't necessarily meant to focus on the violence but rather on the story, and how truly dark it is. The director didn't want this to be a typical revenge story that people go to see just for the action. The path Joe ends up on as a result of this job reveals stuff that happens in the real world that we often don't want to think about. The way Joe's backstory and motivation behind what he does is incredibly well done. It's done through little flashbacks throughout the film, and we don't truly understand these flashbacks until we need to. This film also subverts expectations towards the end in a way that I initially made me think "Ah, man", but the more I thought about it the more I liked the way the story concluded.

However, I think a big reason for the mixed reaction this film has received from general audiences is because of the choices I just mentioned. People who go in expecting lots of on-screen violence? They'll be disappointed. People who can't get over the little twist towards the end? They'll really make their displeasure known. It is inevitable with films like this one.

Characters: Joaquin Phoenix once again puts in a tremendous performance as Joe, and if anything this performance gave me confidence that he's going to do the Joker justice. Sure, he's technically the good guy in this film, but there's a lot of darkness inside his character and he does a really great job of portraying that.

Script: This film won best screenplay at the Sundance Film Festival, so it's no surprise that the script is fantastic. I even went and read it after watching this film.

Overall: Like most indie films, this one isn't for everyone, but I thought it was very good. Go for the story, not for the violence.