A hotel room. A bloodied hammer. Someone with a plastic bag on his head. A lost chain with a name on it. References to Psycho. And Joaquin Phoenix in beast mode. Just in the first few minutes You Were Never Really Here grabs you by the throat and never let’s go until the end credits show up. The question is whether or not that’s something you’d want to experience that?
Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) speaks violence fluently and because of his effectiveness and efficiency he’s hired for assignments where he has to rescue women who are abused. He struggles with his past, experiencing strong flashbacks about his youth and his army time. When he’s hired to rescue a young girl, daughter of a senator, out of a brothel his world is turned upside down and he no longer seems to be safe.
This is a film which presents its content in something which is easily digestible by the average viewer. Not everything is explained in detail and director Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin) leaves it up to the viewer to interpret and do something with the (flashback) imagery. Because of that the movie won’t appeal to everyone, also because of the gratuitous violence. If you can stand that though and pay close attention, you’ll be treated to something which is amazing and it’s a joy to see Phoenix show his acting skills. His Joe is a character who despite his work still comes across as someone who still has feelings and who can’t always shake off the experiences he has had. Phoenix sells that perfectly. You Were Never Really Here is fierce, violent…and extremely good.