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You Were Never Really Here Blu-ray + Digital Review

You Were Never Really Here (2018) movie poster You Were Never Really Here

Theatrical Release: April 6, 2018 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Lynne Ramsay / Writers: Lynne Ramsay (screenplay), Jonathan Ames (book)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Joe), Judith Roberts (Joe's Mother), Ekaterina Samsonov (Nina Votto), John Doman (John McCleary), Alex Manette (Senator Albert Votto), Alessandro Nivola (Governor Williams), Dante Pereira-Olson (Young Joe),Scott Price (Dying Gunman)

Buy You Were Never Really Here from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

After appearing in some of the best films of the decade, it's been a quiet couple of years for Joaquin Phoenix, but 2018 poses a comeback for the actor who hadn't acted in anything since 2015's Woody Allen movie, Irrational Man. This year sees the release of three films headlined by the star of The Master and Her.

First of the three is You Were Never Really Here, an offbeat thriller from Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, who adapts the 2013 novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames (creator of HBO's "Bored to Death").

Phoenix plays Joe, a quiet greybeard who hides a lifetime of trauma with closet near-suffocations using laundromat plastic. A military veteran and former FBI agent, Joe now is in the business of rescuing young girls who have been sold into sex trafficking. It's a dangerous and often brutal line of work, which sees Joe keeping a low profile, dealing in cash, relying heavily on a ball pein hammer, and taking various precautions to protect himself, all the while also taking care of his aging mother (Judith Roberts).

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Joe, the soul-tortured protagonist of Lynne Ramsey's "You Were Never Really Here."

The narrative is a bit hard to describe because it only barely takes shape. Dialogue is scarce here. Even the action tends to be fleeting, with Ramsey opting more often to show the aftermath or periphery of the bloody incidents that Joe endures while attempting to rescue the barely teenaged daughter of a state governor. More prominent and appealing than any character or story is the score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, a repeat collaborator with Ramsey who has also scored multiple films for Phoenix's two-time writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson.

As you would expect, Phoenix is fearless and believable. His bearded face conveys the trauma of Joe more effectively than the jarring blips of flashbacks ever do. We know that Joe has had a difficult life and is suicidal and you don't doubt either of those things looking at Phoenix ambling around with seemingly the weight of the world on his shoulders. Though it is set in the present day, this feels like a methodical '70s movie and not just because Joe repeatedly depends on pay phones.

If you thought Ramsay's last major American film (2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin) was dark, offbeat, and inaccessible, this one takes it even further. You Were Never Really Here leaves much open to interpretation, which makes it a feast for viewers who like that and a nightmare for those who don't. This one garnered even more critical acclaim than the director's last, though it too put up a commercially insignificant run at the box office.

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) doesn't say a lot, nor does he need to for us to understand how he feels.

It certainly doesn't seem like Phoenix, whose early 2000s résumé includes the blockbusters Gladiator and Signs, cares at all about his ability to draw crowds. He has been all art and no business since at least Ladder 49 fourteen years ago. Heck, he even tried sabotaging his career post-Walk the Line Oscar nomination with that ridiculous mockumentary he made with Casey Affleck. In the three months this review was in progress, Phoenix's two latest movies were released to theaters: Gus Van Sant's Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot in summer and Jacques Audiard's The Sisters Brothers in fall. Both were well reviewed and almost entirely avoided by the public, whether given limited release (Don't Worry) or pushed nationwide (Sisters Brothers).

Phoenix has made more headlines this year for getting cast as Joker in a standalone movie for DC, who is desperately in need of critical respectability. That from from Hangover director Todd Phillips will open a year from now on the weekend Venom commercially succeeded in this year. If nothing else, it should find a larger audience to appreciate more of the fine work the actor has been putting in on a regular basis.

Distributed theatrically by Amazon Studios in the late spring, You Were Never Really Here hit DVD, Blu-ray, and digital in July. We review the middle of those here.

You Were Never Really Here: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($19.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture and sound are both up to snuff in Lionsgate's Blu-ray, with the distinct visuals and prominent Jonny Greenwood score leaving nothing to be desired by the standards of high definition.

"You Were Never Really Here" gets no extras on Blu-ray, but it does sport this orange animated menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There are no bonus features of any kind found on the disc. Under "Other Objects", we find "Trailers", which repats the same three full previews that play automatically at disc insertion, promoting Last Flag Flying, The Wall, and Manchester by the Sea. If Ramsey has an aversion to extras, this is a new development.

Of course this being 2018, the Blu-ray still includes a bonus feature in the form of an insert supplying directions and a unique code for the obligatory digital copy of the film. That's the only thing accompanying the blue disc inside the slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

The main menu adapts the orange-driven cover art, with clips and Jonny Greenwood score playing.

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) takes a look inside a bedroom in "You Were Never Really Here."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You Were Never Really Here is a movie that you'll struggle to describe to others and to even determine how you feel about it. There is apparent flair in Lynne Ramsey's direction and Joaquin Phoenix's performance, but that may or may not be enough to win you over and make you warm to this understated presentation. Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a fine presentation of the film and only that, which might disappoint those looking for further insight into the narrative.

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Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Joaquin Phoenix: Inherent Vice • The Immigrant • The Master • Her • Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Alessandro Nivola: A Most Violent Year • The Neon Demon • Devil's Knot
Jane Got a Gun • Taxi Driver • Theere Will Be Blood • Phantom Thread

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Reviewed October 30, 2018.



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