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You Were Never Really Here (2017)

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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.


Lynne Ramsay


Lynne Ramsay (screenplay by), Jonathan Ames (based on the book by)
331 ( 24)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 19 wins & 54 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joaquin Phoenix ... Joe
Dante Pereira-Olson ... Young Joe
Larry Canady Larry Canady ... Cincinatti Cab Driver
Vinicius Damasceno ... Moises
Neo Randall Neo Randall ... Moises's Friend
Judith Roberts ... Joe's Mother
Frank Pando ... Angel
John Doman ... John McCleary
Edward Latham Edward Latham ... Drug Dealer
Alex Manette ... Senator Albert Votto
Claire Hsu ... Staring Girl
Denis Ozer Denis Ozer ... Afghan Boy
Tia Sofia Begh Tia Sofia Begh ... Afghan Girl
Lucy Lan Luo Lucy Lan Luo ... Dead Girl
Annie Mac-Yang Annie Mac-Yang ... Dead Girl


Balancing between feverish dreamlike hallucinations of a tormented past and a grim disoriented reality, the grizzled Joe--a traumatised Gulf War veteran and now an unflinching hired gun who lives with his frail elderly mother--has just finished yet another successful job. With an infernal reputation of being a brutal man of results, the specialised in recovering missing teens enforcer will embark on a blood-drenched rescue mission, when Nina, the innocent 13-year-old daughter of an ambitious New York senator, never returns home. But amidst half-baked leads and a desperate desire to shake off his shoulders the heavy burden of a personal hell, Joe's frenzied plummet into the depths of Tartarus is inevitable, and every step Joe takes to flee the pain, brings him closer to the horrors of insanity. In the end, what is real, and what is a dream? Can there be a new chapter in Joe's life when he keeps running around in circles? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Bring the hammer.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

R for strong violence, disturbing and grisly images, language, and brief nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site | Official site [Japan] | See more »


UK | France | USA



Release Date:

6 April 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

You Were Never Really Here See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$132,829, 8 April 2018, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$2,523,610, 10 June 2018
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color | Black and White (surveillance footage)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In the novella You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames the main character Joe uses a lot of props like latex gloves and gadgets. Lynne Ramsay stated that it was Joaquin Phoenix who suggested to get rid of most props to keep the character more authentic. See more »


The items on the counter to the left of the open refrigerator change as Joe is cleaning it out. See more »


Joe: [to himself] Stand up straight... Stand up straight! Only little girls and fuckin' pussies slouch...
See more »


References Speechless (2016) See more »


I Wouldn't Dream of It
Written by Gary Geld, Peter Udell
Performed by Joyce Heath
Published by Universal Music Publishing Ltd.
Courtesy of Efficient Space
See more »

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User Reviews

Ignore Negative 5 and Under Reviews
28 January 2019 | by lempkecoletonSee all my reviews

I saw mixed reviews for You Were Never Really Here and it made me put off watching this film for 2 years. That was a mistake to say the least. YWNRH is a fantastically shot, gripping stray away from your typical blockbuster crime drama. While this movie isn't perfect, most negative reviews I've seen for this movie are nonsense. This movie is more than worth the hour and a half runtime regardless of whether or not you're typically drawn to the genre. Without spoilers, this review will tell you what you can expect, give you pros and cons, and debunk the faulty overwhelmingly negative reviews some people gave it.

Don't believe the reviews saying there is a "nonexistent, boring plot". The people who think that are the people who need a plot spoon fed to them with in your face exposition and unrealistic, unnecessary character dialogue so they can follow along without having to pay attention. Not only is the plot very clear, it's also very well written. While I'm not sure I would call this movie a thriller, it is a gripping, gritty, crime drama. The plot, despite not being battered into the front of your brain, is straightforward and easy to follow. A man suffering from several traumatic life experiences bides his time finding, and avenging missing girls in an attempt to find peace within himself. Initially, you are left in the dark regarding the main character. His character is developed throughout the story via fragmented displays of flashbacks chopping up his daily life. Through this you simultaneously gather information regarding his daily life, his occupation, his past, and his motives. I believe the way these flashbacks are used are why some people incorrectly believe there is a weak or incomplete plot, but to be frank they couldn't be more wrong.

The use of flashbacks in this movie is not only masterful, but incredibly unique. They are not given to the viewer in their entirety, and they are not meant to give us the entire picture on Joaquin Phoenix's background. They give you enough to understand him, but serve to convey a more important point. The use of these choppy, fragmented flashbacks seen from the main characters perspective convey the hardships of daily life for someone suffering from traumatic experiences. Constantly being reminded of something they'd like to forget, but can't. The seamless and uncontrollable drift from present to the past triggered by random occurrences encountered in day to day life that takes a toll on a person. The director did a phenomenal job conveying this with her technique, while also creating a complete character.

This film is also incredibly well shot. While I'm sure someone could reference several influences this movie draws from I was taken aback at how unique each scene is in how it is shot. This movie strays from the norm and does it extremely well. This individuality not only creates very powerful, gripping, exciting scenes, but makes it easy to focus on less exciting, build up scenes as well. If only based on cinematography I would give this film a 10/10.

While the pros of this movies far outweigh the cons, no movie is perfect. One critique I have is that some of the audio during Joaquin's flashbacks is so quiet I would've completely missed it had I had the subtitles off. Because, as I referenced earlier, the flashbacks are incredibly fragmented each second really counts when establishing the main characters background. Without subtitles, while the quiet, layered audio creates a nice effect to describe the feeling in the main characters head, you lose some relatively important exposition to truly help you understand his past. It's not major and doesn't take away from anything, but it's a critique nonetheless. Same goes for dialogue in a few important character interactions. You really can't fall asleep for a second during this movie if you want to get every detail. I had to rewind another scene that wasn't a flashback just because I missed someone's name. Again, not a deal breaker, doesn't change the plot, but would slightly change your understanding if you missed it.

Overall I give this movie somewhere between a 7/8 out of ten. The only thing holding it back from a 8/9 or a 9/10 was a few minor plot holes at the end. Nothing major, especially when compared to the gargantuan plotholes most Hollywood blockbusters ignore these days, but I'm nitpicky and watch too much CinemaSins on YouTube. Great movie I would highly recommend to anyone.

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