Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Running Time: 89 mins
You Were Never Really Here is an American film about a veteran who works tracking down missing girls, however when one job goes awry, he begins to fear for his life more than he ever has before.
I really wasn’t all that impressed by this film. While attempting to carry off a gritty and intense atmosphere as we follow a deeply troubled man becoming deeper and deeper embroiled in a dangerous world, the movie unfortunately comes across as rather empty and dull, failing to provide the deep dramatic power it aims for, and ultimately ending up as a disappointing and boring watch throughout.
Let’s start with the man at the centre of the film, Joaquin Phoenix. I’ll admit that Phoenix isn’t my all-time favourite actor, and some of his more outlandish performances have on occasion proved more of an annoyance than anything else. In You Were Never Really Here, Phoenix plays a former soldier haunted by the trauma of his past, while still suffering as he finds himself caught up in a dark and dangerous underworld.
On the plus side, his performance is never over-the-top, and he commands an impressively down-to-earth calmness that’s far more evocative of a man struggling with deep emotional trauma, however he doesn’t quite go far enough to really demonstrate the impact of his character’s deeply held troubles.
It’s often said that the best performances are those when the actors don’t act at all, but in this case, Phoenix feels a little too low-energy for the character he’s playing. It’s unusual for his style, and although it’s a committed performance throughout, it’s one that never stood out to me on screen, meaning my intrigue in the film’s main character was far less than should have been the case, with Phoenix often paling in comparison to the far more striking turn from younger co-star Ekaterina Samsonov.
Moving on, the film’s direction is also a point of frustration for me. Lynne Ramsay does a good job to give the film a gritty atmosphere, and emphasise the danger of the underworld in which the characters become embroiled, however she really misses the mark when it comes to portraying strong emotional intensity, going for a more quiet and unsettling vibe that never really takes off.
That’s in part down to the less-than-magnetic Phoenix in the leading role, but Ramsay’s direction also suggests a film that’s not quite as deeply disturbing as is actually the case, and that makes for an incredibly frustrating watch as the movie moves along at a slow and dull pace, failing to captivate you as it attempts to bring across a deeper emotional intensity.
Overall, I wasn’t particularly taken aback by You Were Never Really Here. With a less-than-inspiring lead turn from Joaquin Phoenix, coupled with direction from Lynne Ramsay that never really hits the film’s intentions spot on, the movie is a frustrating and often boring watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.5.