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You Were Never Really Here 15 rating

Lynne Ramsay journeys with Joaquin Phoenix into the mind of an ex-soldier gun-for-hire whose own demons are as brutal as the actions of his adversaries.

Thriller 2017 90 mins

Director: Lynne Ramsay



Lynne Ramsay’s stark inversion of the noir thriller is a devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse, anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire who lives at home with his ailing mother. When Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl. Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.

Working from Jonathan Ames’ 2013 novel, Ramsay (who jointly won the best screenplay award in Cannes) is more concerned with the psyche of her unhinged protagonist than she is with the action, and she eschews the spoken word in favour of Phoenix’s eloquent, line-ravaged face.

Reuniting several of her key collaborators on We Need to Talk About Kevin, her taut, syncopated cinema is intensified by Jonny Greenwood’s pulsating score, Thomas Townend’s expressive camerawork and razor-sharp editing from Joe Bini who rejects exploitation, cutting away from the action rather than to it.

You Were Never Really Here was made with the support of the BFI using funds from the National Lottery.