Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts
Run Time: 90 mins
You Were Never Really Here is a rather frustrating experience, especially given the long wait for director Lynne Ramsay to pick a new project, having last made We Need To Talk About Kevin in 2011. Although her latest feature is certainly frequently disorienting and atmospheric, it is completely empty of any character empathy or development and strips back on narrative. This is a conscious choice made by Ramsay, instead deciding to focus on sound and images rather than get bogged down in a narrative.
Whilst this technique worked for her previous films, there just isn’t much meat on the bone of this film to gnaw on which makes the film rather anti-climatic. Ramsay’s second feature, Morvern Callar is also a problematic film but at least the characterisations were convincing, regardless of the strange decisions they made. Joaquin Phoenix is a strong actor, so perhaps he just didn’t really understand his character here either. I just couldn’t connect with him whatsoever.
Perhaps You Were Never Really Here is a film that simply requires multiple rewatches to truly unpack what Ramsay is trying to aim for here. Tonally, the film is very bleak and has several memorable images. There are some strong, creative moments here particularly in the depiction of violence, particularly what is shown on-screen and off-screen. The score by Jonny Greenwood is also quite interesting, with hints of indie rock, electronic and classical cues that make for an eclectic mix. I just couldn’t become engrossed in the way Ramsay interweaves these textual elements together, which perhaps a rewatch might help with.