• Nick Gargas (dirty_chords)29 September 2017
    Phoenix shines in an inspired and original film that leaves you wanting more
    Warning: Spoilers
    Saw the film yesterday at the Athens International Film Festival, with Lynne Ramsay in attendance.

    With its strong experimental elements, at some point this film comes really close to being a masterpiece, and it's undoubtedly the definition of narrative economy. For what its worth, the abrupt ending left me wanting more, although a circle had obviously been closed (still, there was plenty of more to see in the character, now that he was... "really here" and actually conscious).

    Phoenix is absolutely brilliant as the disillusioned protagonist who is tormented by his past, and now hits back at the cruel and violent world that haunted him. He should get an Oscar nomination at the very least.

    "You Were Never Really Here" is a great mix of reality and delusion, driven by the central character's recurring past traumatic experiences. Perpetuation of violence in a cynical world is the main theme, and it's depicted in a very inspired and original way thanks to the top notch direction and spectacular photography (some stylish scenes are able to convey powerful feelings and messages in a far more effective way than a conventional narration would ever do).

    When the tension escalates, this slow-burn psychological/revenge thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat; the skillful use of editing and music really help on that aspect.

    Ramsay was fun, down to earth and answered many questions afterwards.
  • cucckombo23 October 2017
    Clearly the Best Film of 2017 (for me)
    Warning: Spoilers
    You Were Never Really Here is an artistic, brutal and violent revenge film, but it isn't for everyone.

    Lynne Ramsay's direction is frenetic, the dark atmosphere and the tension that fills the whole film makes an incredible and unique masterpiece. Jonny Greenwood's soundtrack is also very intensive. It is a really naturalistic film, we can see everything from Phoenix's revenge with a hammer. There are cruel scenes with blood, and bone breaking. Every scene was filmed beautifully, so the cinematographer's work is also wonderful. And Joaquin Phoenix's performance is also incredible.

    I recommend this film if you like the bloody and naturalistic revenge, and the artistic violence in films (for example: The Revenant, No Country for Old Men or A Clockwork Orange or the Drive!).
  • FrostyChud29 November 2017
    Not what it appears
    Warning: Spoilers
    If you thought this was a film about a disturbed loner avenging an innocent, you got snookered.

    The only way to understand YWNRH is through a Freudian lens.

    The theme of this film is not father-daughter incest as it appears, but rather mother-son incest.

    Joe has an incestuous relationship with his mother. "Stay with me a little longer," she says when he puts her to bed. In the next scene, she is trying to cajole him into coming into the bathroom where she is naked. The multiple references to PSYCHO are not a coincidence: this too is the story of a man transformed into a serial murderer by his obscene mother.

    The story proper is nothing is a paranoid delusion: hence the title of the film and the mysterious "invisibility" of the main character.

    The true story: Joe, as a child, is dragged into an incestuous relationship by his mother. His father, whose job ought to be to prevent this regressive fusion, does not have the authority to separate them. He is too violent, too weak, or too absent: we never find out. All we ever see of him is a hand holding a hammer. This scene must be understood as a metaphor. Father discovers their relationship and explodes; as he rages impotently with his hammer, mother and son exchange a complicit glance under the bed. Translation of the mother's wink: "He's impotent. You're still MINE." On mother's credenza is a photo of her as a young and beautiful woman and a photo of her son. Father has been eliminated from the picture.

    Joe rescues abused girls. This is a fantasy. No abused girl ever existed, only an abused boy. Joe invents the story of a girl abused by her father as a displacement of the true abuse: a boy by his mother.

    What actually happens in the movie, and what is fantasy? What actually happens is very simple. Joe murders his mother. Joe commits suicide. Perhaps the homosexual encounter in the sauna and the drugs are true. Everything else is a delusion that he creates to escape from the horror of the truth. In Joe's fantasy, he is a powerful man and not a victim. He has a benevolent father figure (McCleary). He makes ample use of the hammer which appears to be the only trace of a paternal legacy. The Nina character is how Joe sees his mother: as a beautiful, innocent, prohibited object of desire. Joe's delusion is simultaneously an attempt to understand the truth and an attempt to flee the truth. David Lynch uses this technique more explicitly in LOST HIGHWAY, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and TWIN PEAKS. It is very effective on film and Lynne Ramsay is right to exploit it. In Joe's delusion, the father (represented by the two- dimensional Votto and Williams characters) takes "illegal" possession of his daughter. In reality, this is how the young Joe perceives his father's possession of his mother: as an unbearable crime that must be punished. Did Joe murder his own father? It is possible. Note that in all of Joe's traumatic flashbacks, women are being murdered, not men. These flashbacks are not real. They are irruptions of Joe's deepest fantasy: murder his mother. He never went to Iraq.

    One day, like Ed Kemper, Joe finally kills his mother. He is the one who shot her in the head. To exculpate himself, he flees into an unbelievable political conspiracy fantasy in which all symbolic fathers are pedophile criminals. Why is Joe so protective of his mother's privacy? Because he doesn't want anyone to find out what is going on between them.

    I wasn't sure the director understood her own story until the moment she replaced Joe's sinking mother with Nina. Here she could not be clearer: Nina is just a fantasy screen for Mother.

    In reality, Joe really does shoot himself in the diner. The fantasy of a happy future with Nina is just a screen.

    I have read Jonathan Ames before and the theme of maternal incest is often implied (his fascination for transsexuals is further proof of an Oedipal thematic).

    Good movie.
  • Ruben Mooijman17 October 2017
    Taxi Driver revisited
    It's hard to review this film without mentioning 'Taxi Driver'. Both films are about disillusioned war veterans, moving through the urban jungle, loathing the decadence of modern society, and rescuing a young girl from a brothel. Also, both films feature an aspiring politician during an election campaign. It's simply impossible to ignore so many similarities. But it's extremely difficult, not to say impossible, to make a film that can stand up to the iconic Scorsese classic.

    Joe, a silent war veteran played by Joaquin Phoenix, specializes in difficult operations like rescuing young girls who have run into trouble. So he doesn't hesitate when an influential politician asks him to search for his daughter. The man doesn't want to involve the police, because he fears for his reputation.

    Finding the girl turns out to be remarkably simple. But after having saved her by violently eliminating everyone standing in the way, things go wrong. There is more violence, more blood and more killing. In the end, Joe seems to emerge victoriously, but there is nothing to be happy about. 'Where do you want to go?', he asks the saved girl. 'I don't know', she says. 'I don't know either', is the desperate sounding answer.

    Lynn Ramsay explains Joe's state of mind by inserting lots of short flashes, sometimes almost subliminal. It adds to the general mood of darkness and looming danger. All kinds of unpleasant things are going on, but Joe nor the viewer know exactly what. The only way to deal with it, is with ruthless violence.

    But is this one man rescue mission enough to carry a whole film? I have my doubts. The first time Joe rescues the girl, the action is filmed in a very original way. We see everything happening through the images of the surveillance cameras in the building. This is exciting cinema. But at the end, Joe is filmed in a conventional way while slowly moving through a large villa, suspecting danger around every corner. This is a scene like so many similar scenes from other movies.

    After leaving the cinema, I felt I had seen a bit too much violence and too little storytelling. But without doubt, this is a personal feeling: perhaps the lack of story elements is what makes this film stand out from others.
  • antoniotierno26 November 2017
    Extremely violent but effective
    Warning: Spoilers
    A kind of 21st century riff on "Taxi Driver" that turns, by the end, into a sort of remake of "Logan" — and an odyssey across New York hellscape combining formal elegance, humor, but also unsparing violence."You Were Never Really Here" is only her 4th movie in the 18 years since her brilliant, Cannes-premiered debut feature, "Ratcatcher." Her return seals her standing as one of our most fearless and forceful filmmakers, if not one as prolific as she deserves to be.
  • lasttimeisaw12 November 2017
    You were never really here and I've never been to me, either!
    Fourth feature from the button-pushing Lynne Ramsay, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE pits Joaquin Phoenix's emotionally blocked veteran Joe against a sordid child prostitution ring, meanwhile he is also seeking an outlet from the besetting trauma of his checkered past.

    It is a gut-wrenching story on paper, but Ramsay configures sundry conceits to present a "reductive" diorama of the events, and the most prominent one is the viewpoint, which never deflects from Joe, hence signifies that there will be no lengthy flashback sequences to inform us what he has experienced (as a child, a soldier, etc.), only through the transient fragments of memory incessantly penetrating into Joe's heads, audience can piece it together proximately, but never the full picture, because for once, we don't need to know it, what is at stake here is its traumatic after effect.

    Secondly, Lamsay flags up a bloated/beefed-up Phoenix's body metamorphosis, which brings about the corporeal testimony of what he has been suffering from, transferred through Ramsay's hyper-real observation (scars, bruise, etc.). Joe's knee-jerking coping mechanism towards the bane is self-suffocation, a leitmotif repeatedly wielded to induce our own gasping response, resounds hauntingly with the self-initiated count-down of Nina (Samsonov), the girl whom Joe is hellbent on rescuing from her pedophiliac abusers. Phoenix won BEST ACTOR is Cannes (along with Ramsay's script win), deservedly, his performance is arrestingly measured, profoundly unaffected but deeply affecting, because he invites us to care for Joe, a laconic, middle-aged, mom's boy, a damaged good whose weapon of choice is a hammer, he makes good as a brutal enforcer, using violence to repress his disturbed state, which is caused by violence/abuse itself, it is a vicious circle he cannot outrun, and we can pour out our sympathy to him when a bereft Joe decides to end his life in the lake (with the sublimely beauteous underwater stillness) before thinks better of it or near the denouement, a startled figment of his imagination prompts a perversely comical/shocking combo.

    Last but not the least, it is about how Ramsay choose to present its action of brutality, and she ingeniously points up its "aftermath" instead of showing the actual execution (during his first rescuing attempt inside a high-end New York apartment building, Joe's action is entirely captured by the fuzzy security camera), violence itself is ephemeral, what lingers behind is its aftermath, tangible, grisly and immutable. When Joe finally loses it after seeing what Nina has done (a big letdown to fans of Alessandro Nivola though), it is a scathing brickbat towards the state of affairs without the help of conventional verbosity, and inaugurates Joe's mental ablutions of his own existence.

    In the event, Ramsay's clean-cut, existential thriller owns to a lucid consciousness of its sensitive material, brilliant aptitude in its visual and sound literacy, also the film allows humor (a sprightly Judith Roberts as Joe's dotage-afflicted mother, sharing meta-PSYCHO joke in communion), and psychic vision (that moment when Joe realizes who is the culprit in his mind-scape) into the play, the main takeaway for me is the unexpected tendresse between Joe and a hit-man he has mortally injured (Price), lying together on the floor, humming along Charlene's '80s one-hit-wonder I'VE NEVER BEEN TO ME on the radio, and holding their hands, is the song really the answer to the film's English title? You were never really here and I've never been to me, either. Touché!
  • Sameir Ali27 December 2017
    Modern Version of Taxi Driver and More...!!
    December 12 Gala Screening, Dubai International Film Festival 2017.

    I have a confession to make. I haven't seen any of the films of Lynne Ramsay. But, I was really impressed with this movie. Very lucky to watch it long before it's theatrical release.

    Joe is living with his old mother. He had a very difficult past. He is living with it's hangover. He gets an assignment to rescue a girl who was kidnapped. That's it. No more about the story. That's something you should really discover yourself. I just want to say that, this film will hold you to the seat even after the end of the film, to think.

    Hats off to the Director for making such an intense film. Joaquin Phoenix, as ever, nailed the role. He won Best Actor Awards at the Cannes Film Festival.

    Do not miss this awesome film. Good luck and enjoy it.

  • gcarpiceci-732689 November 2017
    Irritating piece of self indulgent cinema
    When I read on the posters « The Taxi Driver Of The XXI Century » I put it immediately on my watch-list; well, after seeing the movie, the comparison is almost blasphemy. Despite the strong performance delivered by Phoenix and the good cinematography, the movie is a total downer. Instead of a plot, what you have is a series of disjointed fragments which you try desperately to make sense of, but the task is hopeless. To add to it, as if it were needed, the director injects more fragments of flashbacks which hardly relate to anything happening in the present. Maybe I just grossly missed the whole thing, but I found this an irritating piece of self- indulgent cinema.
  • tambrose-998988 November 2017
    A truly awful film
    Shockingly awful self indulgent film. Takes pointless graphic violence to new heights. Incoherent story line too. Do not waste 90 minutes of your life. It will make you feel angry, stressed and physically sick. The cinematography and sound are undeniably good, but that doesn't justify a pornographic organisation of violence.
  • stephjfoster20 October 2017
    Don't bother - disjointed story line, weak protagonist, how did this get funded?!
    This movie should never have been made and wasting the funds of Film 4 and BFI which could be used to make better films in its place. I wish I had never bothered wasting my time or money on a ticket to see this film as I will never get those minutes of my life back.

    The back story to the protagonist (Pheonix) was very weak and not all of the flash backs to his past were relevant or made any sense as to why the character was that way or as to what he was doing. The story line for the movie is pretty much non existence. It is near impossible to understand why 2 key actions were done by the characters candidate and his daughter and the flow of the movie is missing large chunks of story line and there isn't even the ability to make a leap of faith in trying to connect the story for something to click later in the movie - it makes no sense, if someone can explain all the things then I am open to listening.

    On a side note to the director - I attended this at London Film Festival and if you are too shy to talk to the BFI staff on stage to introduce the film and fail to return to a promised Q&A then don't bother showing up and walking off before answering any questions.