Director Lynne Ramsay establishes herself with bold return
“Let's please do everything we can, collectively as an industry, to make sure Lynne Ramsay's next film is not in as many years as the distance from the last film, and the distance prior to that.”
That's what actor Ezra Miller said about the director behind his breakout role in 2011's “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and in welcoming her return, I couldn't agree more.
“Kevin,” Scottish director Ramsay's stateside debut, was a stunner that divided audiences and critics. It was a bleak film about a mother — played to perfection by Tilda Swinton in perhaps her greatest performance — coping with a child who displayed tendencies that could only be described as evil.
It was also a film that didn't exactly have the most straightforward narrative, its non-linear structure more concerned with tone than shocking plot reveals. The movie played as an unfolding nightmare with a superb performance at its core.
The parallels in “You Were Never Really Here,” her first film since, are not limited to titles that barely fit on theater marquees.
Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man in a unique line of work. He tracks down missing girls for a living.
We see bits and pieces of the trauma in Joe's past that may inform why he's chosen this particularly dark line of work. And we see a cold and efficient killer, albeit one who lives with his mother (Judith Roberts).
Joe's latest case is the one that may lead to his unravelling, as he's hired by a wealthy state senator (Alex Manette) to find his runaway 13-year-old daughter, who is believed to be in the hands of sex traffickers.
“They said you were brutal,” says the senator.
“I can be,” Joe says dryly.
“I want you to hurt them.”
Spoiler alert: He is, and he does.
In her second U.S. feature, Ramsay has already established a signature style that's both bold and not for everyone.
“You Were Never Really Here” is peppered with micro-flashbacks and shifts of perspective that give it a dreamlike quality. And, as the title would indicate, the audience isn't always sure of the reality we're presented.
Phoenix at his brooding-est also can be a lot to handle, although his best moments in a surprisingly vulnerable performance come in the moments between the outbursts.
It's a tale of an avenger, and the violence depicted is effective in its brutality. In more than a few ways, this film is reminiscent of “Taxi Driver.”
Let's hope the wait for Ramsay's next film is a short one.