I missed You Were Never Really Here when it had its short theatrical run which was something of a shame since the trailer really caught my attention. I did know it was from Amazon Studios, so I just had to wait for it to go to Prime Video. It has now, and I finally saw it this past weekend. Watson didn’t really care for the movie when he saw it, but this may be influenced heavily by his general distaste for the work of main actor Joaquin Phoenix.
Me? I like the guy’s work. Let’s see how the movie turned out.
Joe (Phoenix) works as hired muscle, a hitman who doesn’t look cool or stylish like so many other cinematic hired killers. His hair and beard is a disheveled mess. He’s physically described as at best pudgy. He’s not inclined to speak. But, sporting his signature weapon of a ball-peen hammer, he’s damn good at violence. After a brief introduction to Joe and his life with his senile old mother, he gets a job from a state senator. What’s wrong? The senator’s young daughter, Nina, has been kidnapped, and he wants someone to find her and bring her back. Why not hire a detective or call the cops? Well, that might make sense at first glance, but it’s not enough to get the girl back. The senator wants the people responsible to suffer, and Joe is, by his own admission, brutal when required.
It turns out there’s a lot more going on here than Joe is told at first, and not just with the actual plot of the movie. Beyond anything involving the senator’s daughter, Joe himself is a visible mess. This is the sort of movie that speaks more with facial expressions, a discordant and hammering soundtrack, and actions than actual dialogue. We can see through flashbacks the various things that have shaped Joe into the mess in human form he is today, and it isn’t just one thing. His mission to find Nina becomes very personal, very quickly, and while he still may look like a homeless guy even in his best clothes, a man falling apart at the metaphorical seems, he’s still very good at what he does.
This movie won’t be for everyone. It’s not a thriller so much as a deep character study into the effects of trauma and violence on one man, long after the inciting incidents occurred. It’s an intense, often violent movie, but don’t go looking for it if you want a simple crime thriller. It probably helps if you like Joaquin Phoenix. Personally, I do. 8.5 out of 10 suicidal thoughts.