You Were Never Really Here

(Ramsay, 2018)

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Lynne Ramsay’s latest was described by NYLON’s Jesse Hassenger as the “Art House Taken,” and that description isn’t too far off. You Were Never Really Here follows Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a grizzled army vet who works as a hitman, hired to rescue trafficked girls and murder their captors. However, Joe’s situation changes when he is hired by a state Senator to find his abducted daughter. As the movie progresses, we watch as Joe is pulled deeper and deeper into the world of underground crime and conspiracy, all while barely saying a word.

One of the best things about the film is its direction. Known for her vivid narratives and minimal exposition, Ramsay doesn’t seem to care if her audience can follow every move. The movie plays more like an art installation than a commercial film, requiring your time and attention to dissect the meaning each individual scene. Every shot is meticulously composed and aesthetically grim, a testament to Lynne Ramsay’s dedication to purely visual storytelling. Other strengths include a mesmerizing score from Jonny Greenwood (2018 Bestie winner for Phantom Thread) and the committed lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix (he won the Best Actor award at Cannes in 2017 and could be in the running for a Bestie next year).

While I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about this film, it should be noted that Ramsay doesn’t spell everything out for you. It is both thrilling and entertaining, but that doesn’t mean I understood it all on the first go-around. For some people that’s okay, but if you’re looking for a regular popcorn thriller, maybe just stick to Taken. You Were Never Really Here is nuanced, subdued, focused and one of the best movies of the year so far. ★★★★½

David Merkle