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Home > Written Reviews, Written Reviews > “You Were Never Really Here” Brilliant!

“You Were Never Really Here” Brilliant!

 

 

 

 

 

Review by John Delia, Sr.

The mystery thriller You Were Really Never Here reaches theaters this weekend and it has another excellent performance by Joaquin Phoenix. It’s nice to see Phoenix back on the big screen since Irrational Man in 2015 and here we find him obsessed with saving a teenager. It’s a role perfect for Phoenix and one you won’t want to miss.

When the movie opens we find mercenary Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) in the midst a ritual he uses following the saving of another teenager who has been abducted for sexual trafficking. It includes brutally killing the man. Tired of the work he is doing yet living out his sordid past, Joe goes home to his ageing mother (Judith Roberts) who is in early stages of dementia.

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here. All photos courtesy of Amazon Studios

The next day he meets with Angel (Frank Pando), his go between, to collect his money for the job and he tells Joe the boss, John McCleary (John Doman), wants to see him. His boss gives him a new assignment that came in from Senator Albert Votto (Alex Manette) who’s supporting the current Governor running for re-election. In a meeting with Votto, he tells him his teenage daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov) has gone missing and wants her return. He gives Joe an address where underage girls are used for prostitution. It’s the beginning of a task that will detour his life and his will to live.

The film moves along at a good pace with strong sequences of brutal attacks, blistering fights and a lot of death. Writer and director Lynne Ramsay pulls no punches getting into the nitty-gritty of the sordid world of abducting for sex. Through the mind of Joe we see his hurt from a past filled with pain, visions of his deadly circumstances as a child and his desire to kill himself. She uses Joaquin Phoenix talent like no one else has before, pulling out an intense performance that should put him on the list for and Oscar.

Joaquin Phoenix in You Were Never Really Here

Tough, psychologically unbalanced from nightmares of his past, Phoenix works his magic to bring Joe to the screen. Frightening at times, benevolent at others you would think you are watching an adapted script based of the character Frankenstein. His performance is brilliant and shows how angry and demented his character has become from previous psychological trauma. Thankfully the most brutal scenes he has to perform are in black and white and seen from a distance via hallway cameras sparing the blood and bodily damage to his victims.

Joaquin Phoenix and Judith Roberts in You Were Never Really Here

Judith Roberts plays Joe’s mother who loves her son, but has lost her dignity to dementia. She brings out a caring side to Joe as he devotes time to her each day. You can see it in her eyes that her past has damaged her and cannot cope with the outside world. She’s his link to anything family grounding Joe in a reality he cannot forget. It’s a brilliant role for Roberts and she helps the film with her amazing depiction.

Joaquin Phoenix and Ekaterina Samsonov in You Were Never Really Here

As the young Nina, Ekaterina Samsonov gives a very good supporting performance. Nina has been used, given drugs and abused at the hotel where she’s being held. In a stupor she goes willingly with Joe who gives him impetus to live. She becomes the spark that sets him up for his final decision. She doesn’t have a lot of film credits to her name, but I can see her as a good choice for future projects.

You Were Never Really Here has been rated R by the MPAA for strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Very good performances overshadow the brutality of the film. (5 out of 5 Stars)

Additional Film Information
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts.
Directed and screen written by: Lynne Ramsay
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Drama
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity
Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.
Release Date: April 27, 2018
Distributed by: Amazon Studios

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