You Were Never Really Here follows a haunted veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) who works as a paid vigilante of sorts that finds missing girls. When a job goes horribly wrong, he finds himself at a crossroads that challenges his nightmares and moral fortitude.
You Were Never Really Here Review
Coming from the director of the haunting and unsettling We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay), You Were Never Really Here is equally unnerving, but not in the same way...and that different way is not in a good way either. There was a time while watching where I turned to Efrit and said, "are we watching some poor attempt to recreate the magic of Drive?" And that's what it felt like to me between its convoluted flashbacks, odd dream sequences, and brooding Phoenix faces.
When it's just a story, the story is silently and subtly delivered, like a mixture between The Professional and Drive. Those parts are effective. But the need to draw out its arcane and arthouse moments is confusing, irritating and feels pointless most of the time. We Need to Talk About Kevin felt about a half-hour too long at just under 2 hours. You Were Never Really Here felt a half-hour too long at an hour and a half.
With all works in this review considered, I would easily put You Were Never Really Here at the bottom, despite the fact that the cinematography, story and Phoenix's performance are all worth commending. The choice to turn this engaging story into an arthouse wet dream absolutely destroys its momentum. I rolled my eyes and sighed out loud on numerous occasions, knowing I was about to be dragged through another slow, brooding daydream or single-shot moment.
It's perhaps unfair, because some of the things I'm judging this film for are things I praise Drive for. Maybe that's because Drive was different and that made it exciting. A fairly repetitive cinematic structure, apparently, is not a successful trope. I won't just point fingers at Ramsay here, either. Nicolas Winding Refn didn't exactly strike gold after Drive. Only God Forgives is easily on my top 10 most disappointing movies based on my level of anticipation going in.
You Were Never Really Here proves promising at times, and even successful. But it ultimately falls flat on its grueling, dragging structure. It has moments that draw you in, but they just aren't enough. It's perhaps just a subjective issue I am having trouble shaking, but if it had just been willing to pick up the pace again and trust its story to be enough, we wouldn't have needed the overwhelming subtlety that deafens the power of the film.