A violent film that shows almost no violence sounds like the ramblings of an incoherent madman but I assure you despite the just off camera kills, this is a violence driven drama about being okay around death in the worst ways possible. Make no mistake however, there are still moments that showcase the savagery front and center. Somehow through a combination of an outstanding performance from Joaquin Phoenix and award worthy storytelling and cinematography by director Lynne Ramsay, a brutal drama not necessarily focused on the violence still manages moments of pure savagery and dramatic heft.
This is achieved by showing the quiet anguish of PTSD and not knowing what to do with it. In this case Phoenix’s character Joe decides to take his skills he learned from his time with the FBI and Marines and puts them into finding young girls being sold into sex slavery. If this isn’t enough he also suffers from a troubled childhood involving the mutual abuse of his parents all while he listened helplessly as a small boy. He suffers in silence and takes out his aggressions on those who prey on children for their own sadistic pleasures.
His past is simultaneously his motivation to help the helpless and his greatest burden as his past seems just as present as today. It’s almost as if he could heal from past transgressions committed against him he could let go a life of vengeful murder. Each life he takes is that of a pedophilic nightmare but at the end of the day a life is a life. He is in a constant turmoil that just may be the end of him altogether; and somedays that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to Joe. He needs a reason to go on. Don’t we all…
Even though a majority of the killings happen off camera or just out of view you still feel the toll it takes on this tortured man. Like an addict he feels trapped in his life of numb anonymity that is piled on with never ending pain. Maybe the physical pain can mask his emotional anguish and keep at bay the numbness of everyday living. Unfortunately with each passing day Joe’s feeling that a bullet in the brain may be his only path to peace grows more predominant. He’s running out of time to find that reason to continue.
Through Lynne Ramsay’s vision, New York and all its grimy glory come to life in both dreamlike qualities and unflinching present reality. Each blow to someone’s head or look at an innocent child lost in the violence he remembers his own unforgiving history in a city known for its uncaring demeanor. Although set in present day the cinematography combined with a funky 70’s like score, the setting of New York often comes to fruition much in the style of Scorsese and how he showcases the seediness of subway stations at 2am and an aimless focus of the unending neon lights bringing out the darkness of bad behavior thought unnoticed through stark hues of bloody reds and hopeless blues. It all says connection but provides anything but.
If it is in fact darkest just before the dawn, Joe is stuck in a revolving plunge into the darkest days imaginable. It would seem dawn is nowhere to be found.
This is a more artistic look at the revenge thriller through the mind of a plagued military veteran who has lost his way and will give anything to find it again. If he can save the youth caught in the evil of man’s shackles maybe his own troubled youth can find some semblance of relief. Trapped in darkness, Joe can only hope that he is closer than he is too far. You Were Never Really Here requires patience but ultimately provides a satisfactory conclusion that is both shocking and somehow cathartic showing the first true sign of possible peace for our anti-hero who simply goes by Joe.
Rated R For: strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity
Runtime: 89 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts
Directed By: Lynne Ramsay
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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