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The one very precious this we have nowadays is our attention. What we do with it organizes our days, and eventually our lives. Movies and TV shows are being made like never before so deciding what to watch is harder than ever. That said, You Were Never Really There will not feed on your attention without offering anything but temporary pleasure back. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but its an interesting portrait of a man with complementing cinematography.

You Were Never Really Here is adapted from a Jonathan Ames novella by the Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, and like her other work it is visually pleasing and lacks dialogue and the kind of plot you might be used to. Joaquin Phoenix plays Joe in Ramsay's latest film.

"Joe, who lives with his mother in a rundown apartment in New York City, suffers from visions of his own childhood abuse and combat trauma, and frequently contemplates suicide, sometimes going so far as to semi-asphyxiate himself with a plastic bag. When we first meet him, he is finishing up one job. His next, which makes up the bulk of the film, involves an underage trafficking ring that eventually leads him to a conspiracy involving a state senator, crooked cops and federal agents, and the governor of New York.

Sex trafficking, political corruption, childhood trauma, suicidal fantasy, and the frequent application of ball-peen justice—You Were Never Really Here is a film that practically begs to be described as “unsparing.” But whereas Ramsay’s other work, and in particular the haunting, horrifying We Need to Talk About Kevin, had tremendous gut-level impact, You Were Never Really Here feels remote and somnambulant—a bad dream viewers know will end after 90 minutes, never to disquiet them again. Its emotional stakes are inflated so overzealously that they scarcely register as stakes at all.

As one would expect from Ramsay, the movie is immaculately well-crafted, with some lovely imagery and a few doses of dark wit, as when Joe and an assassin sent to kill him end up lying on a kitchen floor together, quietly singing along to Charlene’s “I've Never Benn to Me” on the radio. Moreover, Ramsay is aided enormously by the fact that Joe is played by a bearded and beefy Joaquin Phoenix, one of the few actors one can imagine bringing the character’s inarticulate suffering largely to life." (The Atlantic)


"Along with a Cannes best actor award for Phoenix, this Palme d’Or contender also earned a best screenplay trophy for Ramsay, a particularly sharp choice considering how sparse the dialogue remains throughout. Reimagining Ames’s page-turning source, Ramsay strips out explicit exposition, conjuring an elliptical world through which the audience must find its own way. The focus is on Joe’s inner turmoil, creating a kaleidoscopic portrait of his fractured psyche, interspersed with flashbacks that offer clues to his shattered emotional state.

[...] Thomas Townend’s granular cinematography places us right inside Joe’s crepuscular world, a collage of close-up physical details – hands, fingers, eyes. Passages of lyrical beauty are interspersed with grotesque eruptions of violence, although even these have a surreal quality, whether filtered through the black-and-white gaze of surveillance cameras or reflected in the shattered glass of an overhead mirror." (The Guardian)

"Regardless of your feelings on either of them, it can’t be denied that Phoenix and Ramsay are more or less made for each other. Both are intense, capital-A artistic personas, allergic to half-measures, for better or worse. Phoenix is Ramsay’s first male protagonist since 1999’s Ratcatcher, but he bears more resemblance to the quietly shattered women at the front of her subsequent two films. At any rate, it’s not the first time Ramsay has focused on a protagonist with a death wish. But it’s less surprising territory for Phoenix, who once again seems to be dredging up the darkest depths of his soul for us onscreen, gasping and literally rending his garments from his asymmetrically muscular, scar-mottled chest, 0 to 100 in every sequence. It’s not grounded by much except his relationship with his sweetly melancholic senile mother (Judith Roberts,) whose scenes are some of the film’s best. Nina becomes a kind of platonic avatar of calm for Joe — he turns out to be yet another grizzled middle-aged man who finds redemption by the side of a tweenage girl." (Vulture)

Check out the trailer below.

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