You Were Never Really Here

you were never really there movie cover joaquin phoenix

Puck here, again everyone!! Greetings and salutations (Charlotte’s Web reference, no big deal).


You Were Never Really Here is a film for the true film fans. It is a thriller by any understanding of movie genres. But it is not a thriller in the sense that mainstream movie fans would come to like. It is a psychological and an almost silent film. Which turns out to be one of the greatest assets of it.
With the musical direction of the film done by a great musician and a personal favorite Earthling of mine, Jonny Greenwood, guitarist for the band Radiohead, you can truly see the talent he possesses in this film. It is difficult to tell whether he is a better as the guitarist of the band or as a musical score composer for film. But that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that he adds something to everything he is involved in that no one else could have.


The movie is based on the novel by Jonathan Ames, originally released in 2013 and rereleased in 2018 with several extensions. It was adapted for the screen by the amazing Lynne Ramsay, who’s work includes Movern Callar, We Need To Talk About Kevin, and her debut film Ratcatcher. Her films deal with the concepts of death, grief, pain, and the aftermath of tragedy. One wonders how she became so well versed in dealing with these topics, as they are painfully acquired. But she brilliantly excels in doing so.
In You Were Never Really Here, Joe, portrayed by the incomparable Joaquin Phoenix, is a hitman that goes after abducted children and child molesters, rescuing the former and disposing, gruesomely most of the time, the latter. He does not speak much in the film, which is why I earlier referred to it as a silent film. Instead his story is told through a number of flashbacks to his former abuses as a child and his time in the military.
Joe shows a brutal and vicious hatred towards those that harm children, and the audience begins to understand more and more about this man’s motivations throughout the film. He may as well remain unnamed, because it appears that no one truly knows who he is, or where he comes from. He hides his history and personal from everyone, until in all comes crashing down on him during the pinnacle of the film.


The film begs the question that Joe seems to wrestle with the entire film. Is he truly making a difference with the work that he does? No matter how many jobs he does, no matter how many child molester’s and abuser’s he destroys, there is always a job waiting for him when he comes back. His own self doubt comes from his past and his perception of the world as it is.
Was he ever really there? Did he ever really make a difference? Did any of the work that he did make a difference? These are all questions that are unspoken, but Joaquin Phoenix, in an unsurprisingly subtle and powerful performance, brings them up to the audience with his pain and anguish with the world as it is.

This is most certainly classified as an “art” film, but I would say that it is the most thrilling art film made to date. One that deserves to more than just watched, but considered extensively from the audience. Not many films have the so to say “balls” to ask the audience to come up with the questions and their answers, but this is that film.
Most certainly worth your time and your effort.
Puck from Venus, out!!!


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