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With Jim Sabatini

You Were Never Here

You Were Never Here
Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterirna Samsonov, Alex Manette and Judith Roberts

Rated: R for strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 6, 2018 Released by: Amazon Studios

After a noticeable hiatus after We Need To Talk About Kevin British auteur Lynne Ramsay is still in distinctive form with an unsparing frugality in adapting a Jonathan Ames 2013 novella.

You Were Never Really Here stars a versatile Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice, The Master, I'm Still Here, among his filmic gallery) who channels a little of Robert DeNiro's Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver. But in his unique method acting process tackles angst and milieu with baroque, wrenching realism.

Phoenix's shaggy Joe, formerly of the government and military, is now an independent investigator assisting casualties of sex trafficking. He's retained by a U.S. Senator (Alex Manette) to track down his daughter (nicely modulated by Ekaterina Samsonov) and teach a lesson to those who put her through agony.

Decimation takes on a fete of sorts after the initial offing, but Ramsay hardly goes the route of, say, Taken. More than a weathered pirate in appearance, Joe manages his own demons in a script that allows much understated brooding. A firm hand on the material puts an astute disparity with some flash-backing into personal upheaval that substantiates a mostly fiendish feature. Lest when Joe communicates with a dear, dementia-addled elderly mother (Judith Roberts). Murmured clamoring and cellophane help capture a rich subconscious while much externally exuding from rage.

A remarkable eccentricity (with the mood of a '70s classic co-starring Cybil Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Albert Brooks) extends to the lensing and sound design to render expressionism in taut strokes. Aesthetics are implemented with a prudence into a struggle delivered in fierce, pert fashion where nary a frame is superfluous. There's more here than a vicious, broadly told vengeance thriller — hardly an old saw in that respect. Evocative devotion all the way around from impetus to coming to one's aid may have contradictory, radical elements though creative impulse takes shape with surprising results.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Gerry Matt Claudette Jennifer Audralee Nina  Avg. 
You Were Never Here        B+   B+                     B+ 

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