You Were Never Really Here Screen 19 articles

You Were Never Really Here


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  • Despite its Taken-style themes – a driven enforcer, a trafficked child and a shadowy network – Joe’s mission to retrieve Senator Votto’s runaway daughter is a propulsive, impressionistic piece, its hero as fractured as its narrative. . . . Ramsay, mistress of the eloquent, crystallised moment, hones the flashbacks until a single shot or sequence (a van full of dead Vietnamese girls, young Joe huddled in a closet) gives up its story at a glance.

  • Extraordinarily, Ramsay’s film is not about people; instead it uses them and their bodies to explore American systems of power, and the abuse that develops within. . . . If your typical movie could be visually represented as a building with people inside, You Were Never Really Herewould be a mid-game Jenga tower, full of holes and always on the brink of collapse. It is deeply demoralizing and destabilizing in the moment and extremely impressive after the fact.

  • Rumor has it that this cut was quite different from the one that (divisively) premiered at Cannes; to me, You Were Never Really Here was a boldly anti-cathartic experience, a capillary-busting whirl of violence that suggests the whole world lost its mind a long time ago.

  • Ramsay described working on the screenplay during shooting... Both director and filmmaker won (speculative?) prizes, for acting and screenplay; the propulsive plotting didn’t make up for my dashed expectations for Phoenix to create another indelible role, and the preponderance of fill-in-the-psyche flashbacks certainly didn’t help (nor did the god-awful ending dialogue).

  • The Square at least had a full set of closing credits, which could not be said for the other big winner: Nicolas Winding Refn’s—sorry, I mean Lynne Ramsay’s—intellectually bankrupt and wildly overpraised You Were Never Really Here, recipient of the most illogical screenplay prize awarded at a major festival since…well, last year’s Venice Orrizonti garland awarded to Wang Bing for Bitter Money (2016), a film that literally had no screenplay.

  • The gossamer thin narrative of You Were Never Really Here is barely able to sustain the unrelenting gore that perennially threatens to drown the film. Perhaps, I admit, Ramsay handicapped herself by making her bow on the last Friday of the festival, as Cannes drew to a close. After so much on-screen cruelty in the preceding week and a half, the film’s glut of callous savagery was too much for this surfeited critic.

  • If the competition was especially fatiguing this year, it may have been for the prevalence of a particular kind of feel-bad film that conjoins formal stylization with casual sadism, whether in the service of a would-be moral tale like Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer or a one-note genre exercise like Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here.

  • It not only turned out to be the best film in the official competition, this 88-minute nervous breakdown of a movie provided just the jolt this Cannes needed... Some have compared You Were Never Really Here to Taxi Driver, some to Taken — both understandable references. The film it reminded me most of is John Boorman’s Lee Marvin-starring genre deconstruction Point Blank, which also disposes of the particulars of its standard-issue crime story and opts to create meaning through style.

  • I admired Ramsay’s first two films (Ratcatcher [1999] and Morvern Callar [2002]), albeit from a distance, but You Were Never Really Here shows her continuing in the direction of her unfortunate 2011 effort, We Need to Talk About Kevin, offering a sleek, vapid depiction of violence that postures as an indictment of contemporary American moral corruption.

  • An audaciously impressionistic hitman thriller, less interested in the precise details of the storyline than in the inner life of its brutally efficient, tormented yet sometimes surprisingly tender protagonist (Phoenix in fine form). With its striking images, subtly suggestive soundtrack and very distinctive narrative style, this is Ramsay back on form.

  • Ramsay brings a subtle but completely unique sensibility to the story, implying rather than showing most of the violence and allowing the flushed distress of Phoenix’s performance to set the tone and drive the mise en scène. Werner Herzog's editor Joe Bini keeps the picture clipped and quick, and Jonny Greenwood's stellar score of dissonant funk accentuates the fleet, forward-stumbling sense of disorientation.

  • Fitting the Hobbesian criteria of nasty, brutish and short — it’s been ruthlessly whittled down from an anticipated 95-minute running time to a terse, diamond-hard 85 minutes — Ramsay’s film brought the competition to an electrifying but polarizing close. Some declared it precisely the tour de force the festival had been waiting for; others stayed behind to loudly boo the film as the lights came up, perhaps repelled by its brutal nihilism or its placement in the competition.

  • If it were down to me, Lynne Ramsay’s fragmentary thriller You Were Never Really Here would win the Palme d’Or, but it is a divisively elliptical work. At the very least Joaquin Phoenix’s studied performance as Joe, the ex-GI who’s handy with a hammer, should be a shoo-in for Best Actor.

  • On the level of montage, You Were Never Really Here is an expressionistic tour de force. Ramsay and her editor Joe Bini splinter the film’s chronology through a masterful use of jump and hard cuts, charging Joe’s rush across the city with a manic propulsive energy that reflects his frenzied state of mind, which is progressively exacerbated by an accumulation of physical injuries and copious intake of painkillers.

  • Given the fact that it was presented at Cannes without credits, and that the final film is expected to be at least a fine-tuned version, I’m hesitant to pronounce definitively on a film that’s sometimes perplexing, that in some ways seems both overstated and unresolved, but that, whichever way you cut it, is intensely cinematic, confrontational and intrepid.

  • Ramsay has simultaneously scaled back and stepped up her craft: Her filmmaking here is prone less to overblown visual metaphors, as it was in We Need to Talk About Kevin, and instead it only half-articulates its ideas, making it possibly the most thrillingly unclassifiable film to play at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

  • Was it worth the wait for You Were Never Really Here? That’s not a question that can be answered responsibly with a simple yes or no. A blood-soaked tone poem about a hitman (Joaquin Phoenix) hired to save a 14-year-old girl (Ekaterina Samsonov) from a child-prostitution ring, this intoxicatingly stylish work is all over the place, a hot mess at times so ravishing it sends shivers down to the toes. Unfortunately, it’s also at times just plain crass and silly.

  • The entire film feels like an experiment in condensation, as though Ramsay is testing the limits of how little she can give us and still evoke so much. It makes the things she excludes as present as the things she shows us, and sometimes the things she shows us are bizarrely brilliant flourishes.

  • A tonal and thematic deepening takes place when, suddenly, for the first time, we are outdoors amid nature. A straightforward depiction of sunlight glistening through trees is shockingly powerful, because it represents the harmony denied to our antihero... Ramsay has made a film that finds the humanity of a killer, with a title that speaks to the wistful longing of those whose circumstances never really gave them a shot at a different life.

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