By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
I had to miss the Madison Film Festival for work this year, which was a particular disappointment when I saw that You Were Never Really Here was on the roster- one of my most anticipated films for a solid calendar year, ever since it played the tail end of Cannes and eclipsed all its competition in the eyes of the best film reviewer since Ebert- Jessica Kiang. Well, I was just a little tickled to see that was releasing in Los Angeles the same weekend as the festival, so I snapped up those 20 buck L.A. tickets, thanks to traffic showed up just early enough to grab a similarly overpriced popcorn, and hurried to the theater, bumping into somebody familiar-looking as I rounded the corner…
Oh hi, Joaquin (Deadline’s video, not mine)
You Were Never Really Here stars Phoenix as a contract killer with a particular specialty- rescuing young girls who have been kidnapped, especially to be sold into sexual slavery, wreaking hammer-based vengeance on anyone involved in the process. When he agrees to rescue the daughter of a prominent staffer to the governor of New York, he ends up in a much larger game than usual.
It’s high time that all of the arthouse producers realize that Lynne Ramsay needs to put something out every year, and they need to give her whatever modest funding she’s requesting and full creative control, then sit back and watch the masterpieces flow. Her mastery of genres is stunning, and You Were Never Really Here is her finest hour.
It may also be Phoenix’s, and it’s no wonder why he’s stumping for it personally, clearly feeling a connection to this one even above his famous method ownership of his roles. He’s just a tank physically, and disappears fully into this disturbed bull of a man with the heart of a caregiver, even if you’ve just seen the actor in the flesh not moments before. It’s a commanding performance in every sense of the word, never more so when his vulnerability shows through.
Somebody needs a hug, or is prepared to break you in half with one.
Walking out of the theater, giving the knee-jerkingest of reactions to my MovieBoozer buddies, I called this Leon the Professional meets Under the Skin, but I hold by that reductive description. It refracts the timeless the plot points and iconic cool of the former through the the mind-blowing imagery and disturbing psychological opaqueness of the latter.
It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and won’t always go the way you think, interspersed with moments of heart-breaking tenderness and humanity in the most unlikely of places, and symbolic imagery as beautiful and finely imagined as any recent Oscar winner. It’s like a sledgehammer made of filigreed Faberge ceramic- beautiful, frightening, and shattering in the most eye-catching of ways.
You Were Never Really Here is another violent, gorgeous, and utterly enthralling masterpiece from Lynne Ramsey and Joaquin Phoenix. Here’s to many future fruitful partnerships.
You Were Never Really Here (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every terrifying flashback
Take a Drink: whenever you jump due to one, or anything else
Take a Drink: every time xx imbibes something
Take a Drink: whenever you see a hammer, or the work of one
Do a Shot: for each thing that is taken from xx