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You Were Never Really Here - Joaquin Phoenix

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Already the toast of a number of film festivals, as well as the winners of some awards for it star, here's the trailer for the Amazon picture, You Were Never Really Here. 

 

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A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

 

 

This is directed by Lynn Ramsey, who won acclaim for We Need to Talk About Kevin. The film screened at Cannes but doesn't actually see a release until April 2018. Whatever else, this is one hell of an intense trailer. Reminds me a little of The Horseman. 

 

 

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Saw this last week while I was home in London. It’s absolutely brilliant.

 

Lean runtime, great cinematography, wince-inducing, realistic brutality (eg the violence is swift) and a quite astonishing performance by Joaquin Phoenix driving the film towards its climax.

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Same, loved it. The female gaze on the male redemption story makes it so unnerving. The sound editing really throws you off and it has so many stunning sequences. Film of the year so far easy

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Seemingly my local Showcase has no intention of screening it at all

 

joy tho I can go and see Unsane, I just need to choose the 10pm or 0025 showings

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Hmmm.

 

Trouble I had with that was two fold. Firstly, I find it really hard to engage with Lynne Ramsay’s movies, kind of like you’re watching them through a window. Related is that it kept making me think of other movies.

 

Started off really well - even as a long term Radiohead fan I was anxious about Jonny’s much-praised score since TWBB was kind of intrusive but the opening. 10 minutes was superb - however I was already thinking ‘wow, this feels like Drive 2’

 

I’ve also been a long term fan of Phoenix although not since The Master as I felt he crossed over into something of a tiresome ‘celebrity’ who seems to resent the idea and yet put himself in the spotlight whenever possible so everyone knows how much he resents it (see also Shia Lebouef)

 

Throughout the movie the performance stayed very much in the same zone of ‘I am wounded’, something like being struck repeatedly with a hammer just in case you were in any doubt he is wounded.

 

Ramsay’s direction only emphasises this lack of subtlety, the constantly changing camera used over and over and over again leaving you feeling really disoriented and adding to that sense of disengagement - it’s just too relentlessly uncomfortable to do anything but take a step back.

 

Became clear after a while this is not Drive 2 (which is a shame as i thought Goslings loner left more to the imagination) but the distraction continued - Hurt Locker (the candy bar to the kid in Iraq), The Wire (McNulty’s boss and a crate full of dead sex traffik victim), Leon (although I loved the moment she hugged him).

 

More than anything it put me in mind of Steven Knight’s criminally-underrated Hummingbird, which sorry to say had none of the same issues for me.

 

Not at all bad, but an uncomfortable and distancing experience.

 

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I watched it tonight, without too much idea what I was letting myself in for. I was rivetted to it the whole time. I thought it was excellent.

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I think we can start to consider Greenwood's work as a film composer as being more significant than his work as a rock musician? The scores in both this and Phantom Thread were really great. I think his score for There Will be Blood is an absolute classic but he's really starting to show his range, with soundtracks that are, at least in parts, relatively more conventional (while still being lush af obviously) and support the visuals rather than really drawing attention to themselves.

 

The film does undeniably grip you, and although I can't say I was really completely following what was happening the whole way through (it was a bit mumblecoreish at times), I was happy to be along for the ride. In the hands of a different director, I can imagine this film being all about the violence. But we're not really invited to enjoy it, in the way that, say, Nicolas Winding Refn would want us to. So it is a film about violence, but not so much about the visceral nature of it. Instead we get to hang around after the dust settles and see how the characters try to deal with it.

 

Spoiler

I sort of left wanting to see more, or maybe a sequel, but I guess the "man with chequered past suddenly has to take care of innocent girl" story has already been done many times. Plus, I'm not sure we needed to see Joe and Nina go on some road trip of self discovery, where they both learn important life lessons from each other or something. I'd as soon believe that it all went to shit five minutes after the film ends, that would probably make more sense anyway.

 

As an aside, I saw this in The Castle cinema in Homerton, which is a really nice place. Big, comfy seats, and a better picture and sound than Picturehouse places, plus they're a non profit so I'm assuming they pay the staff decently. So one of the rare cinema experiences that actually doesn't have any obvious downsides when compared to sitting at home and watching Netflix. Might get the membership for the £8 tickets.

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I thought this was a work of genius. One of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time. Joaquin Phoenix's understated performance was incredible. Also, I thought the downbeat tone and pervading sense of despair and emptiness really combined well to create this intensely claustrophobic atmosphere. The cinematography was top notch too.

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What a film, the best I’ve seen in a while. It is jarring and visceral and it’s so lean at just over 90 minutes. I never quite knew what would happen next or where this would end. Ramsey and Phoenix deserve all the praise they are getting for this one.

 

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On 4/19/2018 at 00:05, Coltrane said:

I thought this was a work of genius. One of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time. Joaquin Phoenix's understated performance was incredible. Also, I thought the downbeat tone and pervading sense of despair and emptiness really combined well to create this intensely claustrophobic atmosphere. The cinematography was top notch too.

Same. Its a cold hearted killer classic

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i watched it this morning after being quite excited to see it after seeing the trailer last year.

 

I really enjoyed the score, the pacing and the look of the whole thing.

 

However, as smart a guy as i am i felt a little bit lost as to what was actually going on?

 

Can someone else share their thoughts in spoiler tags as to what was exactly going on with the second case please?

 

I had a similar experience with a film last year where i was looking for some deeper explanation (Personal Shopper, i think) and it turns out there was nothing else there and i just looking for something that didn't actually exist i do wonder if i am simply doing the same. 

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I think this is what happened, please someone correct me if I’m wrong.

 

 

The senator who’s daughter had gone missing was working on the campaign trail for the governor, who, it turns out, was using her as a prostitute. I don’t know how it came out, but somehow the governor realised that it was the senator’s daughter, and in his panic decided to clean it all up by offing the senator and making it look like suicide, killing Joe and his mum and getting rid of the daughter. Obviously Joe figured it out after getting the info from one of his mum’s killers, who he’d wounded.

 

Alternatively, the senator could have found out about the governor and his daughter and legitimately committed suicide. I’m not sure what that would have gained anyone though.

 

 

That’s a pretty simple explanation and there were obviously more layers to it, but that’s what I took from it. I’d be interested to hear if I’m way off the mark!

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After seeing YWNRH and whilst I enjoyed it but didn’t really get it I went to IMDB to read a few user reviews. One offered a perspective I just didn’t see whilst watching it but made some sense in hindsight...

 

Spoiler

If you thought this was a film about a disturbed loner avenging an innocent, you got snookered. 

The only way to understand YWNRH is through a Freudian lens. 

The theme of this film is not father-daughter incest as it appears, but rather mother-son incest. 

Joe has an incestuous relationship with his mother. "Stay with me a little longer," she says when he puts her to bed. In the next scene, she is trying to cajole him into coming into the bathroom where she is naked. The multiple references to PSYCHO are not a coincidence: this too is the story of a man transformed into a serial murderer by his obscene mother. 

The story proper is nothing is a paranoid delusion: hence the title of the film and the mysterious "invisibility" of the main character.

The true story: Joe, as a child, is dragged into an incestuous relationship by his mother. His father, whose job ought to be to prevent this regressive fusion, does not have the authority to separate them. He is too violent, too weak, or too absent: we never find out. All we ever see of him is a hand holding a hammer. This scene must be understood as a metaphor. Father discovers their relationship and explodes; as he rages impotently with his hammer, mother and son exchange a complicit glance under the bed. Translation of the mother's wink: "He's impotent. You're still MINE." On mother's credenza is a photo of her as a young and beautiful woman and a photo of her son. Father has been eliminated from the picture. 

Joe rescues abused girls. This is a fantasy. No abused girl ever existed, only an abused boy. Joe invents the story of a girl abused by her father as a displacement of the true abuse: a boy by his mother. 

What actually happens in the movie, and what is fantasy? What actually happens is very simple. Joe murders his mother. Joe commits suicide. Perhaps the homosexual encounter in the sauna and the drugs are true. Everything else is a delusion that he creates to escape from the horror of the truth. In Joe's fantasy, he is a powerful man and not a victim. He has a benevolent father figure (McCleary). He makes ample use of the hammer which appears to be the only trace of a paternal legacy. The Nina character is how Joe sees his mother: as a beautiful, innocent, prohibited object of desire. Joe's delusion is simultaneously an attempt to understand the truth and an attempt to flee the truth. David Lynch uses this technique more explicitly in LOST HIGHWAY, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and TWIN PEAKS. It is very effective on film and Lynne Ramsay is right to exploit it. In Joe's delusion, the father (represented by the two- dimensional Votto and Williams characters) takes "illegal" possession of his daughter. In reality, this is how the young Joe perceives his father's possession of his mother: as an unbearable crime that must be punished. Did Joe murder his own father? It is possible. Note that in all of Joe's traumatic flashbacks, women are being murdered, not men. These flashbacks are not real. They are irruptions of Joe's deepest fantasy: murder his mother. He never went to Iraq.

One day, like Ed Kemper, Joe finally kills his mother. He is the one who shot her in the head. To exculpate himself, he flees into an unbelievable political conspiracy fantasy in which all symbolic fathers are pedophile criminals. Why is Joe so protective of his mother's privacy? Because he doesn't want anyone to find out what is going on between them. 

I wasn't sure the director understood her own story until the moment she replaced Joe's sinking mother with Nina. Here she could not be clearer: Nina is just a fantasy screen for Mother. 

In reality, Joe really does shoot himself in the diner. The fantasy of a happy future with Nina is just a screen. 

I have read Jonathan Ames before and the theme of maternal incest is often implied (his fascination for transsexuals is further proof of an Oedipal thematic). 

Good movie.

 

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Right, I didn’t get any of that from watching it!

 

One thing I don’t understand though...

 

Where was the father/daughter incest? That didn’t happen in the film, did it?

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1 hour ago, Graham said:

After seeing YWNRH and whilst I enjoyed it but didn’t really get it I went to IMDB to read a few user reviews. One offered a perspective I just didn’t see whilst watching it but made some sense in hindsight...

 

  Hide contents

If you thought this was a film about a disturbed loner avenging an innocent, you got snookered. 

The only way to understand YWNRH is through a Freudian lens. 

The theme of this film is not father-daughter incest as it appears, but rather mother-son incest. 

Joe has an incestuous relationship with his mother. "Stay with me a little longer," she says when he puts her to bed. In the next scene, she is trying to cajole him into coming into the bathroom where she is naked. The multiple references to PSYCHO are not a coincidence: this too is the story of a man transformed into a serial murderer by his obscene mother. 

The story proper is nothing is a paranoid delusion: hence the title of the film and the mysterious "invisibility" of the main character.

The true story: Joe, as a child, is dragged into an incestuous relationship by his mother. His father, whose job ought to be to prevent this regressive fusion, does not have the authority to separate them. He is too violent, too weak, or too absent: we never find out. All we ever see of him is a hand holding a hammer. This scene must be understood as a metaphor. Father discovers their relationship and explodes; as he rages impotently with his hammer, mother and son exchange a complicit glance under the bed. Translation of the mother's wink: "He's impotent. You're still MINE." On mother's credenza is a photo of her as a young and beautiful woman and a photo of her son. Father has been eliminated from the picture. 

Joe rescues abused girls. This is a fantasy. No abused girl ever existed, only an abused boy. Joe invents the story of a girl abused by her father as a displacement of the true abuse: a boy by his mother. 

What actually happens in the movie, and what is fantasy? What actually happens is very simple. Joe murders his mother. Joe commits suicide. Perhaps the homosexual encounter in the sauna and the drugs are true. Everything else is a delusion that he creates to escape from the horror of the truth. In Joe's fantasy, he is a powerful man and not a victim. He has a benevolent father figure (McCleary). He makes ample use of the hammer which appears to be the only trace of a paternal legacy. The Nina character is how Joe sees his mother: as a beautiful, innocent, prohibited object of desire. Joe's delusion is simultaneously an attempt to understand the truth and an attempt to flee the truth. David Lynch uses this technique more explicitly in LOST HIGHWAY, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and TWIN PEAKS. It is very effective on film and Lynne Ramsay is right to exploit it. In Joe's delusion, the father (represented by the two- dimensional Votto and Williams characters) takes "illegal" possession of his daughter. In reality, this is how the young Joe perceives his father's possession of his mother: as an unbearable crime that must be punished. Did Joe murder his own father? It is possible. Note that in all of Joe's traumatic flashbacks, women are being murdered, not men. These flashbacks are not real. They are irruptions of Joe's deepest fantasy: murder his mother. He never went to Iraq.

One day, like Ed Kemper, Joe finally kills his mother. He is the one who shot her in the head. To exculpate himself, he flees into an unbelievable political conspiracy fantasy in which all symbolic fathers are pedophile criminals. Why is Joe so protective of his mother's privacy? Because he doesn't want anyone to find out what is going on between them. 

I wasn't sure the director understood her own story until the moment she replaced Joe's sinking mother with Nina. Here she could not be clearer: Nina is just a fantasy screen for Mother. 

In reality, Joe really does shoot himself in the diner. The fantasy of a happy future with Nina is just a screen. 

I have read Jonathan Ames before and the theme of maternal incest is often implied (his fascination for transsexuals is further proof of an Oedipal thematic). 

Good movie.

 

 

I think this is a hell of a stretch interpretation and that's putting it mildly. @JPL's explanation of what happens in the movie is pretty much how I saw it too.

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Truth, I didn’t see any of what the reviewer saw in the movie, but elements of his thoughts did start to ring true afterwards as I thought on them. I just thought it was an interesting take to ponder. 

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I definitely saw that Joaquin had an unhealthy relationship with women that had come from his deifying his mum while also being somewhat disgusted by her

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2 hours ago, Coltrane said:

 

I think this is a hell of a stretch interpretation and that's putting it mildly. @JPL's explanation of what happens in the movie is pretty much how I saw it too.

Yup I agree. Didn't get that from it all. 

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1 hour ago, kerraig UK said:

I definitely saw that Joaquin had an unhealthy relationship with women that had come from his deifying his mum while also being somewhat disgusted by her

 

That's definitely true and the references to Psycho were, as Mark Kermode pointed out in his review, certainly not accidental.

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15 hours ago, JPL said:

I think this is what happened, please someone correct me if I’m wrong.

 

 

That’s a pretty simple explanation and there were obviously more layers to it, but that’s what I took from it. I’d be interested to hear if I’m way off the mark!

 

Interesting, here's how I read it...

 

Spoiler

The senator had allowed the governor to have his daughter. Sometime in the film they refer to 'favours' so that's why I made the assumption. I thought that either the senator killed himself when he knew the story would come out or was topped by the governor.  

 

But...

 

Spoiler

When we realise that the daughter killed the governor with the razor I did start to question the 'reality' of the whole thing.

 

I started on a path similar to Graham's post but my brain didn't have the capacity to deal with it!

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8 minutes ago, g wings said:

 

Interesting, here's how I read it...

 

  Hide contents

The senator had allowed the governor to have his daughter. Sometime in the film they refer to 'favours' so that's why I made the assumption. I thought that either the senator killed himself when he knew the story would come out or was topped by the governor.  

 

But...

 

  Hide contents

When we realise that the daughter killed the governor with the razor I did start to question the 'reality' of the whole thing.

 

I started on a path similar to Graham's post but my brain didn't have the capacity to deal with it!

That was something I considered too, but I ruled that out because...

 

Why would that senator have paid for Joe to go and find his daughter if he was the one that had put her in that situation? Unless, of course, he was being eaten up by guilt and he wanted it exposed to save her, whilst bringing the governor down. His suicide was his only escape.



 

To be honest, I hope there is a deeper meaning that we’re all missing. Maybe not something as crazy as the IMDB comment posted above, but something which elevates the movie. As much as I enjoyed aspects of it - the central performance, the cinematography, the foreboding mood it conveyed - I don’t really get why people are raving about it. An extra hidden layer would definitely push it up for me, but as it is, I’d say it’s a pretty basic, yet above average thriller.

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Fair enough. For me at its simplest it’s a film about a man struggling to have control and identity and just trying to ‘survive’. The thriller element is just the vehicle.

 

Beyond that there are ambiguous symbols all over the place that allow the viewer to create other narratives and context as we’ve done here. 

 

I loved it and look forward to seeing it again soon. It’s so lean (at around 90 minutes) that it’s an easy rewatch.

 

It also makes me even more gutted that things went wrong for Ramsey on ‘Jane got a gun’ as it could have been a special film in her hands. 

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I thought this was superb, and my interpretation of it was a mixture of those in this thread.

 

Spoiler

 I don't think the whole thing was fantasy - I really don't know why you would choose to just cast out 90% of the film. But I did pick up on the theme of incest between Joe and his mum (the hand holding as she slept, the need for him to be in the bathroom with her, the psycho references). My understanding is Joe came from a fucked up family - the father beat the mother with a hammer, and the mother's dependency on Joe crossed a line into sexual abuse. Joe is basically the gender mirror of the girls being abused by twisted father figures. While they count numbers, he breathes into a plastic bag. And in order to gain a proxy form of vengeance on his damaged mother, and violent father, he seeks out work where he can rescue sexually assaulted children and beat their abusers with a hammer. When his mother is killed, Joe's sublimated need for vengeance is over, so he attempts suicide, only for a new symbol of hope and recovery to emerge in the blonde girl, who he can save.

 

As for the political conspiracy - the Governor trades child prostitutes - I suspect the story of Jeffery Epstein inspired this. There is a heavy implication (the Senator's wife committed suicide weeks before, the Senator doesn't want the police involved, has a strange alibi of knowing the address because someone sent him a text) that the Senator gave the Governor access to his daughter to gain favour, knowing his tastes, but then she became a favourite, and was traded around this elite paedophile ring, and the situation grew out of control, and the Senator unilaterally sought out a shifty off the radar character like Joe to get her back. Except the Governor wasn't going to let her go, and used the full weight of his power to kill everyone involved in her escape.

 

Whatever the truth of the plot, it is a fucking fantastic piece of film-making by just about every metric, and Lynne Ramsay can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.

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Loved this, and went in knowing absolutely nothing about it. Didn't even read a plot synopsis, let alone watch a trailer. With that in mind, I was initially confused by the opening scenes...

 

Spoiler

I actually thought Phoenix's character was a serial killer! Not until he went to meet the guy who gives him the jobs, did it become clear. Probably just me being a bit dense, I'll have to watch it again with the benefit that I now know who he is and what he does.

 

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