You Were Never Really Here Blu-ray Review
Taxi Driver meets Man on Fire by way of Nicolas Winding Refn
You Were Never Really Here Review
Taxi Driver meets Man on Fire by way of Nicolas Winding Refn in Lynne Ramsey's tremendous Joachim Phoenix thriller, You Were Never Really Here.The Taxi Driver comparisons (entirely justified) should have been all you needed to know about Lynne Ramsey's latest, as dark and audacious a feature as you would expect from the filmmaker who gave us We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Clearly it wasn't enough for the cinema release though, with the marketing for You Were Never Really Here struggling to get past the title's similarity to Phoenix's potentially career-ending mockumentary, I'm Still Here, and his huge beard further exacerbating the case of mistaken identity, perhaps even making some wonder whether it was a sequel to that misguided affair.
It's a shame because this really is a case of You Need To See This Film, and the best way to see it would be by knowing nothing about it (hell, preferably not even knowing the Taxi Driver comparison) but, without some kind of background information, clearly nobody was actually committing to it.
The film earned a 7 minute standing ovation on the festival circuits, and has been celebrated by critics as a minor masterpiece. It is precisely that; Ramsey's most assured, accomplished work so far, tackling a subject matter which - in the crudest sense - has been covered before in everything from the aforementioned Man on Fire to The Equalizer to even Taken, and the little-seen David Mamet gem Spartan. However, not like this.
You Were Never Really Here is to Taken what Drive is to a Fast & Furious film, with Ramsey exhibiting a trademark Refn style in her exploration of brutal, sudden violence, unspoken trauma and haunting symbolism.
The film is also gifted a Cliff Martinez-esque score from Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood (who did the tremendously oppressive score for There Will Be Blood, along with just about all of Paul Thomas Anderson's films) which anchors the brutal and intoxicating feature in a world of pulsing beats and discordant tones.
A minor masterpiece.
Ramsey's crafted of a tale of child sex rings, corrupt government officials, and a protagonist who - one could easily assume - is a serial killing monster with a hammer. She deals with issues of childhood abuse, suicidal tendencies, violent hallucinations and PTSD with clinical precision, folding them into the narrative through glimmers that we see across the duration, informing some characters far beyond what simple dialogue could accomplish.
Although undeniably brutal, almost no violence is seen on-screen, with plenty of shots of the aftermath but Ramsey able to extract a sense of dread and stomach-turning horror with - upon reflection - barely any action shots of the horrors actually being committed.
Indeed Ramsey's whole aloof style eschews explanation and exposition, throwing you straight into a lean, taut 90 minute psychological thriller of a ride with little clue as to what on earth is happening until you're over a third of the way in, when the pieces of the puzzle start forming together.
It's impressive storytelling, better than she's ever done before, with Phoenix on powerful, compelling form. You can see why both him and Ramsey earned recognition at Cannes in the form of Best Actor and Best Screenplay, respectively. You Were Never Really There grabs you right from the unusual mimed titles, and doesn't let go until the blood's been drained from you. Outstanding.
You Were Never Really Here PictureYou Were Never Really Here comes to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Studiocanal, who afford the stunning, stylish piece an suitably faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
Shot through with hallucinatory flashbacks and striking imagery, it's still got quite a dour, dark feel to it, but the presentation laps up the bleak grime in favour of a strong presentation.
A very nice presentation.
Whilst Ramsey's setting isn't quite as overtly grimy as the sweltering streets of 70s New York, it's still a terrifying environment, replete with sickly yellow overtones and ominous street lighting, and juxtaposed with the decadent but equally rotten mansion houses.
The presentation absorbs every inch of detail in the piece, enjoying the scenery, taking in the textures and nuances of the framed images - whether Phoenix asphyxiating himself, the girl who wants a photo taken slowly welling in her eyes, or the gruesome remains of a torture and death. Sure, lighting conditions limit the excellence on offer here, with some tonal choices further putting a halt on outright demo material, but it's a very nice presentation nonetheless.
Although not a conventionally impressive image - glossy and sun-drenched, with a half a billion dollar budget behind the VFX-laden sheen - the is still a modestly impressive presentation for this gem.
You Were Never Really Here SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is absolutely superb too. Wholly unconventional - and purposefully unbalanced, but superb nonetheless, with a memorable score that helps define the entire film.
Effects bring home the frequently off-screen body blows and erupting violence, a few thunderous gunshots, smashing glass, the near and sometimes distant bustle of the streets, and every little nuance in between, affording strong dissemination across the array, and even a little LFE input for some of the more punchy moments.
A beautifully discordant symphony of thunderous, intoxicating beats.
Dialogue takes a distinct back seat, and this can be quite disarming, with the juxtaposition between the words and the rest of the track quite striking, almost so much so you have to have the control at the ready, but clearly done by intention.
The focus, instead, is right where is should be - upon that magnificent, memorable score from Jonny Greenwood. The Radiohead member has done some great scores in the last few years, but this may well be the best of them, a beautifully discordant symphony of thunderous, intoxicating beats that elevates the already distinctive feature to the level of being a unique experience.
You Were Never Really Here ExtrasApart from some promos this is utterly and disappointingly bare bones.
You Were Never Really Here VerdictYou Were Never Really There grabs you right from the titles and doesn't let go until the blood's been drained from you.
Studiocanal's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release beats the upcoming US disc to the post, delivering very good video and outstanding audio and, even with no extras, it's a must-have purchase. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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