'You Were Never Really Here' is a brutally efficient psychological thriller

Other | Tuesday 13th March 2018 | David

Joaquin Phoenix strikes a hulking presence in a blistering new thriller that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Orchestrating the carnage with brutal efficiency, director Lynne Ramsay channels the film’s Taken-esque storyline into a nightmarish assault on the senses. It’s a mean, relentless creation that does everything short of beating the viewer up and stealing their lunch money. But for anyone who likes their cinema firing on all cylinders, You Were Never Really Here may well be the purest adrenaline fix you could hope to catch in theatres right now.

Phoenix plays Joe, a PTSD-ridden former FBI agent who leads a lonely, paranoid life caring for his elderly mother when he isn’t taking night jobs recovering kidnapped children. In what appears to be a straightforward assignment for the hammer-wielding professional, Joe is hired by a rising New York politician to rescue his teenage daughter, Nina, who was recently abducted and forced into prostitution. It is only once Joe has Nina under his protection that things go horrifically wrong, as Nina’s kidnappers abduct her again before tragically upending Joe’s entire existence in a vicious series of retaliatory murders. With nothing left to lose, Joe sets about rescuing Nina once more, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake.


Peppering its blunt savagery with surreal and psychological flourishes reminiscent of the output of Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, You Were Never Really Here immerses us in the increasing unhinged mindset of its traumatised lead. It’s a ruthless work of laser-focused craftsmanship geared towards wringing maximum anxiety from every sound and image. Even a close-up of a jellybean getting crushed between Joe’s fingers feels ominous and violent.

With nary a moment wasted in its remarkably quick 90-minute runtime, You Were Never Really Here is just the sort of stress-inducing experience that will have skittish viewers breathing into a paper bag. It’s an expertly delivered gut-punch of a film that leaves you shaken and despondent but painfully alive.

You Were Never Really Here is in UK cinemas now!