“You Were Never Really Here,” directed by Lynn Ramsey, is a suspenseful and beautifully directed film. Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a middle-aged retired veteran that finds and rescues missing girls, in this case Nina, who is played by 15-year-old Ekaterina Samsonov.
Joe is hired by a potential client whose daughter (Nina) has gone missing. Throughout his search for Nina, Joe is battling his own demons from both his childhood and PTSD. The episodes and flashbacks he has of his past are both chilling and heartbreaking – they give you glimpses into the dark moments he endured in his life. This begins to give you a better understanding of who Joe is without directly telling you exactly what happened in his past.
The sound design for the movie is incredible; you feel like you’re in New York City,which is where the film takes place, as though the subway had just zoomed by. Within minutes of the movie starting, you can already begin to feel the suspense and tension building.
Phoenix plays this role beautifully and has the incredible ability to transform himself into dark terrorized characters, just as he did in “Walk The Line” and “I’m Still Here.” There’s a sort of melancholic gaze Joaquin gives on screen for “You Were Never Really Here,” that convinces you he’s truly faced the horrors of being abused as a child and seeing your mother both physically and verbally abused by your very own father.
Along with the fantastic performances of both Joaquin and Ekaterina, the musical selection, specifically “Angel Baby” by Rosie and The Originals, gave the movie a different type of vibe. I almost want to say that it felt like a combination of genres, indie and thriller – an indie thriller. The song “Angel Baby” is from the ‘60s and has that sort of eerie, sad love feel to it which is ironically playing during the most violent scenes in the movie, in which men are being killed by the hero, Joe. During these scenes, you’ll see Joe standing at an entrance or in a hallway and the next shot will be of a man on the floor, clearly dead, covered in blood, so you don’t ever actually see Joe literally stabbing or shooting someone.
Ekaterina’s character, Nina, having been through the terrors of not only being kidnapped but sold to a brothel where children are sexually abused, has numbed and detached herself from her surroundings. This creates an indescribable connection between Nina and Joe.
If you enjoy thrillers and indie films with a bit of action, this movie is absolutely a must-see for you. The movie is set to be released in certain theaters across the country on April 13, 2018.