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.
Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly dangerous things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.
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
The film was submitted to the Cannes Film Festival in an unfinished state, and was completed only a few days before the first public screening. Lynne Ramsay subsequently said that the version shown in Cannes was unfinished. See more »
Joe is wearing a white shirt at the residence where Nina is being kept. He slings the hammer over his shoulder after having hit several people, but no blood smears on the shirt. See more »
Joaquin Phoenix stars in, You Were Never Really Here, a movie that beckons memories of Taxi Driver. It's an apt comparison since the two movies are deep character examinations, and Phoenix's character in this film, Joe, certainly shares similarities with Travis Bickle, Robert De Niro's famous taxi driver.
The two men both have traumatic pasts that inflicted irreparable damage on their mental health, and both men currently live unsatisfying lives. The main difference is that Travis Bickle attempted to make an honest living driving a taxi for a time before he, well, you can watch the movie and find out what he did. But, Joe's way of making a living is unlawful from the beginning of the film. However, he did initially attempt a lawful career years before the film's opening scene. I'll get there.
Joe is a hired gun whose job is to hunt down missing girls, bring them back, and punish those that captured them. It's work not for the feint of heart. When asked if his methods are rough, Joe replies, "I can be." He's being modest.
Joe brutally disarms, injures, and kills anyone standing in the way of his missions. His preferred weapon: a ball peen hammer.
Despite all the killing, he's not a bad guy. He cares for his elderly and often confused mother. The work he does, while often gruesome and heavy on killing, is for what most would agree is a good cause. Few could retrieve the girls the way Joe does and even fewer would be willing to do so.
Joe takes no joy in any of his work. He takes no joy in any of his life. He continues forward out of some sense of duty. He fantasizes often about suicide and attempts on occasion, only stopping when he remembers his mother or the girls in need of help.
He often experiences vivid flashbacks and fantasies that blur the lines between what's real and not. The audience doesn't always know, and Joe doesn't always seem so sure either.
He's constantly haunted by memories of his past as a child, a soldier, and an FBI agent. Each phase of his life left him scarred physically and emotionally.
Phoenix is one of the most enigmatic, fascinating, and excellent actors of the past 20 years. It's hard to imagine other actors pulling off a performance like this one. He deserves commendation for his work, as does director Lynne Ramsay.
Fair warning: the movie is occasionally brutally violent and is often very confusing. It's not for everyone.
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