You Were Never Really Here ★★★★½

Fireworks and hurricanes, I’m not here

Adapting a novella by Jonathan Ames, director Lynne Ramsay makes a return to the screen with the dark and disturbingly beautiful tale of Joe (Joaquim Phoenix), a traumatized former soldier now working for a small private firm where he specializes in the recovery of children from sex trafficking rings. Things get brutal, complicated and even more personal after he’s hired to rescue the daughter of a politician.
Worrying less on the details of the plot and focusing more on the inner torment felt by Joe, a physically scarred, mentally damaged man, carrying his traumatic past with him along with thoughts of suicide. Echoes of abuse he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father, the senseless death he witnessed in war and from the victims of people smugglers all reverberate inside his dark place of a mind, dark too must his body remain, walking in the shadows as he carries out his dangerous work, a ball-peen hammer his weapon of choice, Phoenix here portrays a very human character as opposed to an invincible hitman and is brilliant in the role.
The film is violent but keeps a little distance from the act, showing more of the aftermath but still feeling hugely impactful and with a sense of beauty which fits well into its superbly captured surroundings, the neon lit streets of New York, the aged interior of his old mother’s house whom he still lives with and where a sense of humour still resides, cheap hotel rooms and the grandeur of a governors mansion. Images punctuated by whispers, loud footsteps amongst silence and a stunning score by Jonny Greenwood.
The empty spaces left by a man no longer there, moments of asphyxiation, take a picture and feel another’s pain, a song for the dying, a watery grave, the shaft of light that penetrates the gloom, a glimmer of hope within a child’s eye, time to wake up. Hugely recommended.

If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d ‘ve Baked a Cake