57°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

3-4-24 PDF
March 4, 2024
2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

*Grunt*

“You Were Never Really Here” is a fascinating character study, peering into the head of a man who feels at odds with the world around him. Creeping into every corner of your thought, this frighteningly immersive film plays with themes of detachment and inconsequentialism, asking how accurate our perceptions of our own impact are. Though its story might be fairly simple, ”You Were Never Really Here” is deceptively complex, often in ways that transcend conventional filmmaking. In essence, writer/director Lynne Ramsey has created a film that is pure atmosphere, and the manner in which that atmosphere changes is what informs our understanding of character and plot. Though it is not entirely unique—You Were Never Really Here” does carry strong echoes of past films such as ”Taxi Driver” and ”No Country for Old Men”—Ramsey’s latest picture is certainly unlike most other crime films before it, and probably most of the ones that will come after it as well.

As I’ve already mentioned, the plot of this film is not exactly stupendous. Adapted from Jonathan Ames’ book of the same name, ”You Were Never Really Here” tells the story of Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a military veteran who now works as a hitman/P.I., finding and rescuing kidnapped victims. When Senator Albert Votto (Alex Minette) hires Joe to find his daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), Joe gets in a little over his head, and struggles to stay afloat. There are no real developed characters in this story other than Joe, but this is not a flaw. The artistic merit of ”You Were Never Really Here” is how it manages to put us in Joe’s shoes. Joe never gets to know anybody else, so neither do we. This story is simple because Joe sees it as such. While we are given no evidence to see Joe as an unreliable narrator, he is an incredibly single-minded one.

Now, any film that focuses so intently on its main character is only ever as good as its lead actor, and in this respect ”You Were Never Really Here” is great. Though the writing mostly consists of grunts and blank-stares, Phoenix goes above and beyond, truly inhabiting his character in a spectacular way. Not only does he look and sound like Joe, but his physicality and mannerisms are so on point that you feel like you know how he thinks and feels, despite the fact that he never really says so. Building on Phoenix’s great performance is impeccable sound design by Paul Davis. Though the audio isn’t as flashy as in grandiose space-operas packed to the brim with booming lasers and terrifying explosions, the city ambiance is exquisitely engineered to move with Joe. It doesn’t sound like New York—it sounds like a man walking through New York.
“You Were Never Really Here” is, in many ways, the thinking man’s spectacle. It’s a weirdly fun, slow moving rollercoaster of thoughtful filmmaking. Though it does ask much of its audience, it doesn’t do so in the way many other films do. You’re not meant to pick apart the plot or ponder the philosophical implications as with many other thought-provoking films, you just let this one sit with you, and see where you end up. ”You Were Never Really Here” blurs the line between surface and subtext. It is a captivating conversation with itself, spoken almost entirely in grunts and images. It is, to say the least, worth watching.
Rating: 10/10.