Turning in a powerfully subdued performance, Joaquin Phoenix reminds everyone why he’s one of the best actors in the game in YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE. Phoenix plays an ex-military man, Joe, in New York who works for hire to track down girls who have been kidnapped and bring them back home. Quick, sometimes millisecond flashbacks show us how traumatic his experiences were, but in regular life, he just continues to live seemingly happy, taking care of his elderly mother and tracking down sex traffickers. But if we look through his general lightheartedness and endearing shell, we can see the cracks start to show; a depressed man struggling to barely keep it together. YWNRH is an enthralling, slow-burn examination of the mind of a depressed man.

It may have just been the theater where I was at, but the sound editing and mixing were excruciatingly loud. It’s a very interesting directorial choices, and one of many brilliant decisions made by director Lynne Ramsay, who really lets the audience sit in the literal and figurative darkness. The loud, jumpy edits can be a bit distracting, but they all matter in telling Joe’s backstory. The score is incredibly entrancing, using lots of 7/8 time signatures to really disorient the audience.

This movie is a great take on grizzled hitmen characters, like TAKEN and the like, but whose past life has actually affected them. Although very deliberately paced, it’s hard to catch your breath, but also difficult at times to enjoy the dark road we go down. I usually enjoy dark, deep dives into psyches, but this one blew me away, with an ending that will haunt me for a while.


(Refer to my rating system HERE!)