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Drama - Crime

You Were Never really Here (2017)


Duration 1h 29m Rating (UK) 15
Source of story A novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames
Director Lynne Ramsay
Writers/Script Lynne Ramsay
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov

Elevator Pitch: Joe, played by Phoenix, is a veteran and possible ex-FBI man whose job is to recover children and young people sold into sexual slavery. His techniques involve the use of blunt instruments and extreme trauma for the villains he comes across. He gets the job of recovering the thirteen year old daughter of a senator who has not returned home, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Even though he finds the girl after dispatching nearly everyone surrounding her, she is taken from him at gunpoint and the finds those around him are being killed. What is going on?

Content: Extreme violence is implied as we see Joe selecting the tools for the job, usually involving ballpeen hammers. There are flashbacks to his youth and to moments from his time in the desert and the police service when he discovered dead women in a container. Now he seems a bit unhinged  and as well as his violent exchanges he is suffering from suicidal tendencies, and we see him attempting suicide more than once. Despite the content of the tale we do not see any sexual activity and any nudity is limited to people on the floor of the corridors of the places Joe attacks.

A View: This film was feted by the critics but in movie terms has made almost no money. But it was produced on a very tight budget, the director saying that she could not afford to reshoot scenes. We watched it with absolutely no prior information and so were bewildered by quite a bit of it, so if you have read this short review you are already better off than we were and I’m sure it benefits from a bit of prior understanding. It is difficult for filmmakers to deal with child sex, but Lynne Ramsay manages it pretty well mostly implying both that aspect of the narrative and the violence. By my standards probably a watch for nothing but you have to pay attention.

Additional Info: The book had a quite different emphasis and ending, but we’ll never know whether it would have made a better film.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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