You Were Never Really Here by the female director Lynne Ramsay is definitely my kind of film. A strong narrative combined with a cool soundtrack and dazzling visuals. It is an action-driven thriller, with a strong human touch thanks to the modest and natural acting performance by Joaquin Phoenix. The film premiered at the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival this year in May, resulting in 2 awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor.
You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line (2005), I’m Still Here (2011),…) as the traumatised and tormented war veteran Joe, who now works to save women from sex traffickers until he gets involved in the corrupt rescue mission of the young Nina Votto (Ekatarina Samsona). The story is based on Jonathan Ames’ novella of the same name.
You Were Never Really Here is a rather short film of only 85 minutes, where the average duration of a feature film is around 120 minutes. The short duration is perfect for the narration though. It keeps the dialogues and the action interesting and avoids the audience to become distracted by too many subplots.
The score for You Were Never Really Here is one of the elements that makes the film so hypnotising, which is composed by Jonny Greenwood. You might know him as the guitarist of Radiohead. Ramsay and Greenwood already collaborated on her last feature film We Need To Talk About Kevin in 2011. This time, the score for You Were Never Really Here has the potential to become equally epic as Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” as the score for Drive.
When it comes to the visuals, Ramsay and her cinematographer Thomas Townend (who shot videoclips for The Killers and Adele) go for an ambitious, almost eclectic style. The different kinds of framing and perspectives alternate at a high pace, which makes the whole a bit overwhelming, but this matches the tension and the action-driven narration. The film is mainly shot at night, which adds up to the dark atmosphere as well.
International press already pointed at the fact that the film looks familiar as if it’s a revisitation of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) combined with the cool of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) and Quentin Tarantino’s sadism (you could easily compare with Reservoir Dogs (1992)).Nonetheless, the plot twist in You Were Never Really Here is simply genius, which I won’t spoil. Therefore, you should just go and watch it yourself.
You Were Never Really Here will be released in Belgium on November 15th.