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You Were Never Really Here Review


"You Were Never Really Here", Film4 Productions, 2017


Jake Gyllenhaal once described art as something that "comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable". That is the tagline for this film and it does not hold back.

This is a brilliantly uncomfortable claustrophobic look at the darkest corners of the human condition. This is manifested with just how dark and cerebral the pacing of it is - it picks as typical tropes of storytelling and just twists it. This is reflected by how creatively it revisits particular plotpoints, underlining in the most disturbing way possible how Phoenix's character is haunted by his upbringing and the unpredictable way that it slips into his line of work. One thing that I don't talk about enough is sound. The soundtrack is cobbled together with farty synths and hushed intimate whispers of a young girl. It's a refreshing change of pace with how tension is built and I love it. Pheonix, much like his Bafta speech, commits hard. Only he could pull off a role like this without being intimidated by the script. Much like the extraordinarily moving use of the rest of film form, he's able to, with a simple facial expression, deepen the themes of isolation and abuse. I also love how the film cannot be stylistically pigeonholed. It dips and dives from gritty realism to absurdist surrealism in an incredibly moving way that doesn't come off as cheap and something that the filmmakers just threw in just because they could.

However, one thing that doesn't quite translate is the relationship between Phoenix's character and his mother. Whilst I understand that the subtle approach towards how the two interact may echo the painful past that they both share, I feel that, considering how important her death is in sparking the conflict, it could've been presented in a way that heightens our want as the audience to sympathise.

This is the sort of film to pave the way for a new movement of film in the industry - it heightens the medium as an art form.


5/5 Stars


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