You Were Never Really Here is the hotly anticipated latest film from auteur Lynne Ramsay. Ramsay is a favourite director of mine, Rat catcher, Movern Callar and of course We Need to Talk about Kevin were all film which left their residue glistening in the depths of your mind for a long time afterwards. Sticking with five word titles, Ramsay’s latest is an adaptation of the 2013 story by the American author Jonathan Ames.
A hulking, bearded Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe, a man tormented by past demons whilst simultaneously continuing to create new ones in his ‘job’ as a hammer wielding maniac for hire. Joe seems to place great importance on remaining secret, cutting ties immediately when his fixer’s son seems him entering his mother’s house – his mother being the only person we see him anything like normal interactions with.
Joe gets a job that involve extricating a young girl from what we can clearly guess is a sordid sex house and he does so in a brutal, unflinching fashion but then finds himself part of a conspiracy that himself and the young girl he has rescued are now in grave danger from.
This is a jarring, unsettling film that probably is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Ramsay has used a deeply disquieting score by Jonny Greenwood to make sure you aren’t ever really sitting comfortably. It is a nightmarish ride where we aren’t ever sure if any of what is happening to Joe is real.
Joaquin Phoenix is such a phenomenal actor and here he is mesmerising. Scenes of him breaking down are powerful and agonising to watch. Then Ramsay switches to bizarre scenes of him holding a hit man’s hand as he is dying and singing Charlene’s I’ve Never Been to Me (if you weren’t an 80s kid, Google it, it’s bizarre).. The journalist sitting next to me had seen it three times which I thought was weird but the partnership between director and actor is intense and all consuming and makes for an extraordinary film that I really have to see again and again. So to that journalist I say, I’m sorry Jonathan, I get it now, let’s talk after I’ve seen it three times.