1. You Were Never Really Here
Ok so this is it. My number one movie of the year. Lynne Ramsey’s masterpiece “You Were Never Really Here”. It’s kind of a bummer when the best movie of the year comes out really early in the year and every movie that comes out after, no matter how good, just doesn’t measure up. I’ve spent the whole year saying, “Yea it was good, but not as good as YWNRH.” I’m going to keep this one short as since I already wrote a review of it back in April when it came out.
There is nothing about this film that doesn’t work. It tells the story of a man who has lived his whole life surrounded by violence and it shows what that does to a man. One of the best things about this movie is that although its about a guy who rescues girls from brothels by beating people to death with a hammer, it doesn’t display that violence in a showy way. Every time Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is forced to violent actions the movie displays it as a mundane and unexciting act that Joe has to take. It’s a really smart directing decision that’s probably more jarring than a big violent action set piece.
A majority of the main characters backstory is told through lightning fast flashes of his childhood and time in the service. Most of his story is subtext. I love a movie that doesn’t explain itself and trusts the audience to understand on their own, so this movie was firing on all cylinders for me.
Joaquin Phoenix has already been established as one of the best actors currently working and that fact becomes more solidified this year. He showed up in two other excellent movies (“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” and “The Sisters Brothers”), but it’s in “You Were Never Really Here” that he proves why he is such a force. He plays this character almost like a specter of death. Phoenix haunts every scene with grim intensity. His character displays suicidal thoughts throughout the movie and Phoenix plays these scenes in a way no one else could. It’s a real shame that this movie didn’t get more attention because his performance alone is worth writing about.
Johnny Greenwood put together his weirdest score yet for this movie. It’s full of synth beats and techno bass but backed by very unnerving strings. It’s one of my favorite scores of the year. The opening track “Tree Synthesizers” gives me goosebumps.
Like I said, I’m keeping this one a bit short. “You Were Never Really Here” is a perfect film led by Joaquin Phoenix in one the most unforgettable roles in his endlessly impressive career. I only hope Lynne Ramsey doesn’t take too long before her next film and that more people go see it.