I have seen some excellent films at this years Atlanta Film Festival, but Lynne Ramsay's dark and gritty You Were Never Really Here (2018) was one of my favorites. You Were Never Really Here tells the story of a traumatized veteran who rescues trafficked girls and disposes of the captors in brutal fashion. Going into the film, I hadn't seen any trailers and knew very little of the story. I did, however, have high expectations as I am a fan of Joaquin Phoenix and many people were buzzing about the film here on FilmFed and social media. I am happy to share that You Were Never Really Here entirely delivered on my expectations.
You Were Never Really Here (2018) is a very extreme and intense film with very little substance. At its core, it is a simple story of a war-torn veteran who takes jobs rescuing trafficked young girls and killing bad guys with a ball-peen hammer. This simple story translates into a very tense film thanks to a stunning combination of excellent direction, acting, and some of the best use of sound I have ever experienced.
Lynne Ramsay has crafted one of those rare films that maintains an extremely tense and violent tone without having to consistently show violence on the screen. In fact, some of the fight scenes are completely implied and show nothing more than Phoenix walking away from the carnage with a bloody hammer. I can't give Ramsay all of the credit though, as Joaquin Phoenix's excellent and somewhat poetic performance as the quiet and somber Joe also helped to set the films gritty tone and carried my interest for the entire runtime of the film. Throughout the film, you get hints of why Joe does what he does through a series of PTSD style flashbacks that showcases a couple of different incidents from Joe's past.
By far though what impressed me most about this film was how they utilized sound to help build the films intense tone. The film's score has this pattern throughout the film where it grows louder as scenes slowly intensify, but at other points, the score will burst in from pure silence causing an instant intensity to form.
You Were Never Really Here (2018) is a film that boasts very little dialogue and substance, but what it lacks in substance it makes up for with excellent direction, performances, and outstanding use of sound. The film is exceptionally violent, but what I liked is that it doesn't rely on the violence as a gimmick. The violence is very artistic and at some points is purely implied. I give You Were Never Really Here an 8 out of 10.
You Were Never Really Here • In Theaters Now • Runtime 1:29 • Rating R - Strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity