(WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, MORVERN CALLAR)
Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Frank Pando, John Doman, Alex Manette and Alessandro Nivola
Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is visibly and deeply troubled by something from his past. Sharing a small apartment with his mother (played by Judith Roberts), the dishevelled-looking ex-FBI agent has suicidal tendencies and often subjects himself to various forms of physical harm. The only thing that appears to be keeping Joe’s heart ticking along is his current line of work as a hitman. His next assignment involves rescuing several young girls; one of which is the daughter of New York State Senator, Albert Votto (Alex Manette). However, Joe’s fate is about to be tested by a conspiracy that is uncovered and by his own mental demons.
An unfinished version of Lynne Ramsay’s YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE that was screened at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival was the recipient of a seven minute standing ovation. It was also nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or and did win the best actor prize for Joaquin Phoenix as well as tying with THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER for the best screenplay award. Following on from its success at Cannes, many critics have sung the praises of this obliquely-rendered mystery drama that will struggle to earn an equal level of appreciation from most cinemagoers.
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is one of those films that quite intentionally never really allow all of its specifics to be fully grasped. The plot that I’ve described above to you is presented in a visually stifled manner that features episodic flashbacks from another timeline in Joe’s life and has a discontinuous narrative. Many scenarios purposely have scenes left out of them that allow the aftermath shown to give you the picture of what just transpired. Here and there, this fairly original method of movie-making is impressive and stunningly executed. A perfect example is the stand-out sequence which takes place inside a brothel that is filmed via its security cameras. But these fine moments don’t happen as frequently as they need to. Viewers will find their interest levels wavering throughout. Certain elements of this less transparent treatment do heighten the awareness of the viewer at times while others draw a distance from the film. The tighter budget that writer and director Lynne Ramsay (who also wrote and directed the excellent drama from 2011, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN) is forced to work with has undeniably led to outside of the square filmmaking, with mixed results.
Results that can be as perplexing and frustrating as the recent Liberal party spill in Australian politics and will understandably cause you to wonder if we have just seen that unfinished version shown at Cannes!
MA15+ (Strong themes and violence)
YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Moviedoc thanks Umbrella Entertainment and Annette Smith for the opportunity to watch and review this film