Review: You Were Never Really Here (2017)

There’re still monsters in the shadows.

by Antonio Cabello Ruiz-Barrecos

Review of You Were Never Really Here (2017), directed by Lynne Ramsay. USA.

In every absorbing, chaotic, mutilated and disruptive beat that drove Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) into the dark recesses of his psyche and that of the recent history of the United States, Paul Thomas Anderson led us with his The Master (2012) into a post-war world populated with broken, disoriented beings such as Freddie, who wandered around invisible to a society on the road to perfection and idealism as prescribed by the 1950s.

But deep down, make no mistake, with her new movie You Were Never Really Here director Lynne Ramsay shows us that we’re still in a state of shock, that the sickness hasn’t been cured so far and that in the shadows still lurk monsters. All of contained in a pretty sparse plot (based on the novel of Jonathan Ames): an old war veteran dedicates his time into trying to save women who are kidnapped and sexually exploited.

The movie is really a story of resurrection, wherein Ramsay (whose last film was We Need To Talk About Kevin, 2011) follows a perpetually disturbed animal, guilty and erratic down the streets of an eerie New York. In the city we not only find echoes of Taxy Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) but also something of the San Francisco of Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) – totally on the margin of the iconic, corporeal Joaquin Phoenix.

The movie is really an insurmountable piece of work, concocted with a rather unique manierism in its mise-en-scène thanks to Ramsay’s ability to adopt the necessary tools and resources for each moment in the story, be that off-screen action, long sequential takes, parallel montage, classical structuralisms, diegetic elements or, suddenly, halting the action to submerge us in abstraction. A whole special mention goes to composer Jonny Greenwood, who complements Ramsay’s narrative beautifully.

It is during its final moments when You Were Never Really Here gifts us with one of the most coherent, bold and scarring finales in recent cinema.


TonioAntonio Cabello / Writer (Jaén, Spain – 1993) Producer and editor for Fremantlemedia Spain on TV shows, he studied journalism and audiovisual communication at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. He also studied poetry, humanism and film criticism. Six years ago he founded Esencia Cine, for which he has covered the Cannes and San Sebastián film festivals. Life is time.

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