REALLY CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
Thus far I haven't seen any of Lynne Ramsay's films. Oh, I could make some excuses that they didn't play locally or I was away when they came out or they haven't wormed their way to the top of my watch list yet, but the fact is they just passed me by and there are only so many hours in the day to fit in all the hundreds of films out there that just looked to be more rewarding. In addition, I'm not paid for any of this film reviewing malarkey: I have to fund it all out of my own pocket so I'm not about to spend it on stuff I don't think I'm going to get something out of. My dollar, my rules. Granted, it doesn't always work out, and it certainly didn't here. Because, depressingly, this is one of those films which seems untouchable: films where you feel there's an obligation to effuse. So many people have already raved about it that you won't be taken seriously if you don't join in. It's as if, buried deep in the unspoken, unwritten (and unsigned) film reviewers' contract, there's a tiny sub-clause listing the types of films it's acceptable, nay expected of you, to be sniffy about, such as 70s smut, torture porn, Adam Sandler; and this is followed by another sub-clause detailing the movies and directors you have to be nice about. Ben Wheatley, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, people who Can Do No Wrong even when they do. You actually liked Geostorm more than Killing Of A Sacred Deer? What is wrong with you, you clueless barbarian? Hand in your Film Twitter membership card at once.
Although You Were Never Really Here has some kind of a DTV sleazy thriller plot, in which a tough, taciturn strongarm (Joaquin Phoenix, unrecognisable under a colossal beard) is hired to rescue a politician's young daughter from a sexual abuse ring, it's really not about that and anyone expecting Friday night popcorn thrills is going to be severely disappointed. It's more of a character study of Phoenix's nominal but hard-to-like hero: his day-to-day life, his struggles with his mother who's descending into senility. It's also more of a mood piece: grim, sombre, occasionally shocking and shot through with despair and darkness. There's no light or levity to be had, no respite from the awfulness.
Which, theoretically, makes it fine. It's doing exactly what it's supposed to do, it's doing precisely what Lynne Ramsay and cast and crew wanted to do. But so does a Transformers sequel or a tatty old British sex comedy or a set of Hellraiser sequels. They're doing their jobs, fulfilling their respective briefs, so why don't they get praised for it the way, say, Darren Aronosfky's unbearable Mother! or Ben Wheatley's intolerable A Field In England do? Or this? Because I just didn't like or enjoy what it was trying (successfully) to do? Or because we're supposed to admire and appreciate what this is doing and not a late period Van Damme kickabout? Maybe just I'm being overly defensive, but I can't help feeling that liking or not liking a film is no different to liking or not liking rhubarb. You either do or you don't and you're not wrong. With that in mind, I really didn't care for You Were Never Really Here at all. I can appreciate its mood, I can see why some would admire it, but it absolutely did nothing for me except knock Tomb Raider from its briefly held position as Least Satisfying Film Of 2018 So Far. (Which is emphatically not necessarily the same as Worst.) A few bonus points for randomly including I've Never Been To Me on the soundtrack.