subscribe: Posts | Comments

You Were Never Really Here – Movie Review

Comments Off on You Were Never Really Here – Movie Review

You Were Never Really Here – Movie Review

Rating: C+ (Above Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be tricky to depict in a film and Lynn Ramsey takes a curious approach in portraying it in You Were Never Really Here. Rather than opt for a standard narrative approach, she uses the visuals to tell this story of a private investigator attempting to track down a missing girl. What starts off as an intriguing cinematic idea soon appears to mask a story that isn’t all that compelling and a lead protagonist that is difficult to feel invested in. Eventually, You Were Never Really Here just becomes the latest in a long line of bleak films that wonder what the point of living is. It begs the questions if filmmakers are aware of the type of message these movies are sending to viewers.

The greatest strength Ramsey shows with this film is her use of visual imagery. Rather than dialogue, the story is told through specific close-ups and actions and it’s admirable trying to piece the film together with these carefully chosen shots. Adding to that is the incredible sound design. Foot steps, gun shots and even the simple act of grabbing an object are given the proper aural impacts and sound designer Paul Davies deserves a lot of credit. The beginning of You Were Never Really Here is the film at its strongest as we get absorbed by these qualities. Thomas Townend’s cinematography, meanwhile, brings a seedy 1970s feeling to the film.

Despite the cinematic flourishes, Joe is a fairly one-dimensional protagonist and it’s tricky to get invested in his story. Joaquin Phoenix definitely tries his best, conveying the character’s internal pain a lot more with his eyes than Ramsey’s screenplay does as a whole. The central mystery with the missing girl is an underwhelming one, as Nina serves as little more than a McGuffin. She isn’t given any personality, as the entire focus is kept on Joe, so it’s difficult to have much emotional attachment beyond the terrible circumstances she finds herself in. If Ramsey isn’t all that interested in Joe’s case, then why should the audience be?

What ultimately makes You Were Never Really Here an underwhelming viewing is the single note it plays through the movie. While the film handles the PTSD aspect of the plot in a way that’s appropriately disorienting, the grimness just becomes numbing by the end of the short ninety minute runtime. When violence occurs, it seems more intent on shock and showing the audience how terrible the world is. There are multiple examples of horrific bloody scenes and it just becomes too much after a while. This is just the latest in a string of recent movies that offer a grim message that the world is a terrible and scummy place and everyone is horrendous, so why bother? These are the kinds of films we need less of nowadays, not more.

You Were Never Really Here is certainly not a poorly made film, but it is a disappointing one that only brings a surface level understanding of PTSD to the table. What is most admirable is how Lynn Ramsey prefers visuals over dialogue and the viewer is meant to piece the plot threads together. She could have made this as a silent film and it would still be easy to convey the actions. However, there is a frequent numbness and a gridmark message and tone that is tiring. It’s easy to understand why filmmakers choose to make these sorts of movies, but they have now become repetitive.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison