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Prepare to be slayed: Rashid Irani reviews You Were Never Really Here

A contract killer battles his demons while trying to rescue a teen from a trafficking ring. It sounds gruesome, but this is a moving film executed with incredible restraint.

movie reviews Updated: Jun 02, 2018 17:16 IST
Rashid Irani
Rashid Irani
Hindustan Times
Sex,Trafficking,Sex trade
In a career-defining performance, Joaquin Phoenix plays a fully realised tragic hero unhinged by the paternal abuse he suffered in his own childhood.
  • Direction: Lynne Ramsay
  • Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov
  • Rating: 5 / 5

Unarguably one of the finest films of 2017, this revenge thriller has been accorded a surprisingly limited release. More’s the pity, for it deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

The film is a harrowing portrait of a contract killer seeking to justify his misspent life. It’s been adapted from Jonathan Ames’s 2013 novella of the same name, by Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, We Need to Talk About Kevin — neither of which made it to our multiplexes).

Riven by suicidal tendencies, the protagonist is tasked with rescuing the kidnapped teenage daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov) of a New York senator. His relentless search for the captive girl leads to a brothel and a thriving child sex trafficking ring.

Abstaining from the casual cruelty endemic to this genre, Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay keeps the violence at the edges of the frame.

Demonstrating remarkable restraint, Ramsay creates a fully realised tragic hero unhinged by the paternal abuse he was subjected to in his own childhood. Abstaining from the casual cruelty endemic to the genre, she ensures that the hammer-wielding violence is relegated to the edges of the frame.

In one of the film’s most heartbreaking scenes, the avenger and an assassin whom he has fatally injured gently sing and hold hands to a melancholic tune playing on the radio. Even more memorable is the watery funeral the son grants his murdered mother.

Besides a career-defining performance from Joaquin Phoenix, the dazzling cinematography by Tom Townend and the visceral music score and soundscape (courtesy Jonny Greenwood-Paul Davies) contribute to the film’s propulsive momentum.

A one of-a-kind masterpiece, You Were Never Really Here is essential viewing for cinephiles. See it before it’s yanked from circulation.

First Published: Jun 02, 2018 17:16 IST