A Nightmare Masterclass in Revenge

You were never really here

You Were Never Really Here follows a familiar enough shape of a thriller. Directed by Lynne Ramsay, known for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The movie, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a private operative – formerly a US soldier – who spends most of his time rescuing victims of sexual slavery.

Balancing between feverish dreamlike hallucinations of a tormented past and a grim disoriented reality, the grizzled Joe–a traumatised Gulf War veteran and now an unflinching hired gun who lives with his frail elderly mother–has just finished successfully yet another job. When Nina, the innocent 13-year-old daughter of an ambitious New York senator, never returns home Joe is hired to find Nina and punish those who put her through hell.

So much stands out. There is nobody better than Phoenix at conveying numbed psychosis and, more bearded than a retired buccaneer, he excels in tussles with a kaleidoscope of inner torments. He has the look of a man who is never more than five minutes away from processing bad news. He seems weighed down by generations of sorrow. But he is also allowed moment of gentleness.

Ramsay expands Joe’s story in ingenious fashion. The traumas he suffered in the army are dealt with in a brief ambiguous flashback that lasts little longer than three minutes. His own childhood abuse is referenced in muttered shouts on the soundtrack and through a continuing need – apparently inspired by his dad’s bullying – to wrap his head in cellophane… read more from The Irish Times


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