Analysing Lynne Ramsay's Latest Movie, You Were Never Really Here
Based on the Novella by Jonathan Ames, You Were Never Really Here, is a no holds barred look at
the underground sex trade. The film starring Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, starts with flashes of images, a
blood covered hammer, a picture of a young girl, and Joe, his head covered by a plastic bag
breathing in and out. He removes the plastic packet just before he passes out and starts to wash the
bloodied hammer, at this point it becomes clear that Joe is finishing up a job, and the scene cuts to
him exiting the motel into a side alley.
Joe, a war veteran and former FBI agent, lives with his fast deteriorating mother who suffers from
dementia. Joe is haunted by a myriad of nightmarish images from his days in the service, and the
bloody child abuse at the hands of his father.
That part of the story is told with snippets of his past flashed on screen and the weight of what he
has seen, experienced, and does for a living is a burden so heavy you can see it is physically hard to
Forever suspended in a world of anguish and pain he has turned into a street warrior, exacting well-
deserved punishment on those he deals with. Joe is a hit man who rescues children from sex rings.
He is good at what he does and delivers a liberal dose of parental revenge on behalf of his clients
during his rescues.
The central story starts when Joe accepts a job from Senator Votto, the Senator of New York, to
rescue his missing teenage daughter.
The Senators express instruction is ‘to hurt them’, and although you don’t get to witness it, the pre-
murder shopping spree gives you all the information you need, as you watch Joe carefully select the
hammer he will use to do the job.
The producer has not wasted movie minutes on the finer details of the murderous scenes, rather
watchers are given snippets of the before and the after, and the rest is left up to your imagination.
This means the movie barely fills the standard 90 minutes, which gives you more time to enjoy real
With Joe clocking up an impressive amount of bad guys bodies, the work he does is both necessary
and evil, and he is often found considering suicide as an escape.
An Award Winner
Joaquin’s performance is one of his most intense to date, bringing his particular brand and style to
the movie. His character is quiet, empty, yet Joaquin is able to convey the inner torture with very
The movie is a glimpse into the nightmarish underworld of New York, all filmed to the tune of pop
songs. This is Lynne Ramsay’s fourth cinematic offering, and the director has a distinctive flair all her
own, and although she has become well known for being difficult, she certainly also has a reputation
for her talent.
You Were Never Really Here received best screenplay trophy for the director and Phoenix collected best actor award at Cannes.
Described as an updated version of the 1976 Taxi Driver, Ramsay certainly has portrayed the same
amount of violence without the graphic details.