Saturday, May 26, 2018

Rudderless

You Were Never Really Here (2017) - Ramsay
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There is nothing that is new or revolutionary in Lynne Ramsay's latest, You Were Never Really Here. It's a rehash of noir and gritty New York movies of yesteryear, albeit extremely well done. What she does here is slightly subverting that tired angry white male hero genre - rescuing an underage girl against the sleazy high echelons of society, into an white male identity crisis. If Travis Bickle is an angry vigilante who only goes by his own moral code whether society accepts him or not, Joe (played by Joachim Phoenix) is a lost man who never shows his emotions or thought process. With his abusive childhood or Afgan vet trauma shown in bursts of flashbacks, he is just a simple hired hammer (his preferred weapon), completely rudderless who has no capacity in thinking what lies beyond the job when confronted with the prospect of future.

Stunted in his thick body and cotton mouth speech patterns, Joe is only a flesh and beard. Only company he keeps are his own old mother, his old PI boss and a cat. Things become a little more complicated when he rescues Nina, a state senator's daughter from a underground brothel operating out of a glitzy midtown townhouse. There is a bigger conspiracy as Nina is napped by NYPD goons in front of Joe and all of his associates are killed.

The film is a technical marvel on all levels - from the memorable opening title sequence to minimalist action sequences taking place in dark alleys and corridors, to weird Ramsay moments - as an assassin lay dying in Joe's kitchen, they sing along a sentimental old tunes together. Prevailing sunny 50s tunes against heart thumping ultra modern soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood clash and show Ramsay's point about dated white male heroism and the melancholy it represents. Naturalistic setting (Queens) and Phoenix's understated performance balances out her poetic, dreamy visual flourishes later on in the film. Completely unsentimental and rapturously understated and subtle, Ramsay operates in her top level with You Were Never Really Here.

Phoenix is great as the embodiment of emasculated, bruised male ego and does his hammer do the talking. The diner scene at the end is every bit as memorable as the ones Good Fellas or Five Easy Pieces from a complete opposite spectrum.

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