All the pieces did well to come together for this one.
Hired muscle, vigilante, however you want to look at him Joaquin Phoenix’s Joe is a figure to be reckoned with who’s all about the reckoning. Tasked with rescuing a Senator’s daughter from sex traffickers, things escalate from there, and then from there.
Brutal and unflinching in it’s depiction of violence, Director Lynne Ramsay has delivered a blood-drenched thriller as impactful as it is conversely absent the ultra-stylistic visages this description would normally evoke. Proffering an impression of that most graphic, in its depiction of violence and lack thereof the film shies away from otherwise distracting us from that which is wholly more consequential and resonant here; the lasting, all too palpable effect on Joe and those involved.
To this end, You Were Never Really Here, importantly a character-driven rather than plot-driven piece, grants us some spectacularly memorable sequences, including an emotional encounter on a kitchen floor shared between Joe and a man slowly dying by his hand. One lake-set scene, the most visually stunning of the film, marks the filmmakers’ unusual achievement of crossing over into heavily symbolic territory without sacrificing the momentum and permeating grit-filled, albeit heightened sense of realism.
The plot, one we have seen many times before including in recent years, nonetheless factors as incredibly novel. Unfolding entirely from Joe’s perspective, a point of view we are not often treated to in like features, knowing as much and as little as the man who is by no means the apex of the food-chain situates us all the more thrillingly in his corner of the underbelly.
Succeeding in no small part due to a reliably dedicated turn from the always excellent Phoenix, Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack, assuredly another strong contender for Best Original Score following his contributions to Phantom Thread, are intoxicating highlights throughout.
Where the film does stumble is in it’s concluding moments, treating us to a grisly and largely unnecessary vignette distinct in style and tone from all which preceded it. Ramsay, utilising a screenplay too penned by her, otherwise achieves the same effect by intimation, consummate mood-setting and the deployment of a strong lead which like so many of You Were Never Really Here’s attributes manage to recommend this engrossing flick all on their own.
You Were Never Really Here screened at the Sydney Film Festival