Joe is a traumatised veteran of both the armed and police forces. A well trained enforcer, he now works as a hired rescuer of abducted children. He’s shaped the ‘perfect’ existence for himself until his latest job plunges deep into the hell of a dangerous high level paedophile ring.
“You Were Never Really Here” is a hunter, a predator.
The first half of the film it spends stalking its prey…us. It lets us behind the steel heavily reinforced curtain to Joe’s world to show us Joe the caring son of an elderly senile mother. Balancing out his other self as the hammer-wielding purveyor of methodical retribution.
The second half, when it truly has us in its sights, pounces…going straight for the jugular. Visceral moments of extreme, yet never overplayed, violence play out like a nightmare none of us could ever imagine. Add Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead’s score to further enhance the trance, even the very final scene leave us wondering what is real and what is fantasy.
At its core, the film is a fairy tale as dark as anything the Grimm’s could write. Here are two damaged children, a veritable modern day Hansel and Gretel, lost in a vile urban forest. He the beaten down grizzly attack dog thrust out to pasture, she the broken doll passed from wolf to wolf. They’re a bizarre match made in Hades.
The two leads are phenomenal in their roles. Joaquin Phoenix’s furious intensity as the warrior without a war would strike fear into even Travis Bickle. And Ekaterina Samsonov is the perfect beauty to Phoenix’s beast. Razor cut to a brief 88 minutes, director Lynn Ramsay has crafted a brutal masterpiece that would sit comfortably on a shelf with Shane Meadows “Dead Mans Shoes”, John Boorman’s “Point Blank”, and Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver”.
This is easily my favourite film of the past few years.
– Myles Davies