"Rise of the Phoenix"
A Review of "You Were Never Really Here” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Lynne Ramsay, Writers: Lynne Ramsay, Jonathan Ames, Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Judith Roberts, Ekaterina Samsonov
Rating: 3 STARS, STREAM
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.
PTSD earned from a combat zone is a snowy mountain to climb. Some veterans, due to no fault of their own, crumble under the weight of the avalanche. Others, rise like a phoenix and manage their trauma. Then, you get introduced to a film like “You Were Never Really Here” and realize there is a group of people stuck somewhere in the middle.
The frantic tug-of-war on display in this film is amplified using natural sound that will often leave you covering your ears for protection. With the addition of a pulsing and ominous soundtrack, the filmmakers invite you inside of the mind of someone who is both battling PTSD and trying to save others from trauma-inducing experiences.
The film focuses on Joe played by Joaquin Phoenix who absolutely stuns and shines in the role. Joe is a fixer, consumed by demons of war, who uses his talents to track down abducted girls. At the beginning of the film, we meet Joe wrapping up a pursuit and returning to his home life. Before life can return to normal, he is called back into action to track down a senator’s daughter. As he does, a twist I never saw coming and a real sense of violence are revealed. It was at this point that I wanted to applaud the writers of this film for being so bold. At this point in the movie, you know there is more to learn about these characters. Instead of spoon feeding us, they decide to show us in layers like a chef removing the skin from an onion.
As Joe changes directions, we are introduced to the concept of a slow revenge and scorching the Earth in order to save someone’s innocence. Throughout the journey, we are consistently faced with Joe’s trauma and its source. In the end, trying to tell two stories at once and how they relate was a gamble for such a low budget film. Yet, it paid off in a multitude of ways.
In the end, I think this is a film worth streaming. It asks the audience to do a lot of work; work most audience members aren’t willing to do. It doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions it poses but gives you enough to keep you interested. It also tells a brave story; one missing from today’s cinema. For that, it should be commended and watched from the comfort of your home.
Be good to each other,
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