You Were Never Really Here: a movie review by Elana Bowman

August 29, 2018 by Elana Bowman
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Meet Joe. He carries the darkness within him, so it’s no surprise he is characterised as a slightly overweight, full of scars, totally unkempt, and seems to be falling apart, so he comes across as a lumbering hitman who is tasked with being brutal.

Joe is traumatised with flashes and by his own desire to seemingly leave this world. There is an ode to drowning and a really relevant and rather brutal look into Joe’s own head. There are countless scenes where he physically attempts to take his own life; a very insightful look into mental health as it is likely that Joe is a ghost in New York – he is just not noticed (perfectly apt for a hired hitman).

The movie is based on Jonathan Ames’ novella of the same name. The film delves into sex trafficking, and evil by society’s top politicians. They’re respectfully suited and as the movie progresses, clearly exploitative and evil.

While the movie is brutal and gory filled of scenes which involve hammers, duct tape and asphyxiation, the focus is constantly on Joe – a loner who walks a very fine line within himself. One minute he is singing along, and taking care of his mother in a very Norman Batesy way and the next he is tasked with killing off bad guys one by one.

It’s agonising to watch. There are some somnambulant dizzying, beautiful, flashback scenes full of the agony and pain inside Joe’s own head. He covers his face with a hood, he cannot tune out on anything going on around him and he is cruel and violent towards bad men who do terrible things in a society where these men are deemed worthy and respectable. His humanity is grasping. He is a broken man.

Yet this brokenness is the perfect asset when assigned with for a Senator Albert Votto’s (Alex Manette) missing daughter, Nina, who is very creepily played by Ekaterina Samsonov. It’s quietly menacing because we are left to assume and Ekaterina gives nothing away.

There’s real sense of “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” (Shakespeare) in this film. See it if you love Joaquín Phoenix who is masterful in playing a man who is at a loss, as a caretaker, a hitman, and with his own sense of humanity and worth.

You Were Never Really Here opens on September 6



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