You Were Never Really Here is a thriller film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Ames. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, and Judith Roberts.

The Story/The Direction:

This film follows the tormented psychological journey of Joe (Phoenix), a former soldier who now works as a vigilante-for-hire who rescues children from human trafficking. In addition, he has post-traumatic stress from both the war and from the people he could not save.  His main mission in this film is to get back a Senator's daughter (Samsonov) out of a trafficking ring.  

Ramsay, with her writing and directing, does an incredible job to invest her viewers into the world that Joe is in. She does this without giving a lot of dialogue and places her audience in this gritty world, similar to that of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. What helps Ramsay's work is Jonny Greenwood's score which grabs the audience with its opening notes. Those in addition to some great cinematography, editing, and sound make this a good film to watch especially as a character study.

The Characters:

Joe has a nothing short of a complicated background and Ramsay tells the story through his eyes. He is a character who has done a lot of damage to both others and himself of which continues to do. As the film progresses, Joe becomes less human and more of a shadow as the film progresses. This character is brilliantly played by Phoenix who plays every element of the character to perfection. He's not a hero on a revenge mission, he's a man trying to live with his horrific past. Thanks to the brilliant story and his portrayal, viewers are never sure what he is going to do next. Is he going to be touching with his mother (Roberts)? Is he going to bash someone in with a hammer? Is he going to cry? Anything is on the table with Joe. 

The Flaws:

The main flaw with this film is that it is hard to like. It's dark and grim world whose main character could kill himself at any moment. Joe's past also could have been explored a little more as this film basically only says "he has PTSD." Aside from the dark tone affecting film's re-watch-ability, these flaws are nitpicking.


This film brings together a great story, a wonderful director, a phenomenal star, fantastic production, and a thrilling score to make a film that is an experience. While viewers may not watch the movie often after their first viewing, one cannot deny the skill that was involved in making this picture come to life. The sound alone could make this great film worth seeing in theatres. However, if one does not care about that, it can be seen on VOD later on. 

Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties

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