You Were Never Really Here

A dark, tormented soul, Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a finder and returner of taken/kidnapped children. He stumbles onto something that is larger than expected and the resultant fallout changes everything.

Adapted from the Jonathan Ames novella of the same name, You Were Never Really Here is a superbly constructed film, it leaves you to work out what is happening and it takes its time in revealing key bits of information. In this way it is a somewhat slow start but it never once loses your interest as there is so much to keep you intrigued, so much to try to work out. There is a lot of violence involved in this film but it isn’t in your face violence, but it isn’t quite just implied either, it walks a fine line between almost showing but never quite showing it happening, it is so cleverly done. Highlighting the result of the action being carried out rather than the method. The film itself is very dark in tone but it doesn’t depress at all as you watch this unlikely saviour do whatever is necessary to return these children to their families.

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Joe is secretive, lonely and completely careful about keeping his working life separate from his home life to the point of paranoia. Methodical in his preparations but is also left with disturbing visions from his past that return to haunt and attack him, giving him a slightly unhinged feel to go with his unkempt looks.

A huge, hulking, powerful Joaquin Phoenix is just superb in this and he is the focus in pretty much every scene, I really can’t praise him enough in this and he just keeps on putting in these amazing performances. I’ve just seen that he is in the forthcoming The Sisters Brothers due out next year, which is an amazing book by Patrick deWitt and is directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan). Even more excited about this one now!

But back to this film and Lynne Ramsay has crafted an amazingly powerful thriller here and I can’t wait to watch it again.

Overall Rating:    ½

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

This was my first experience of a Yorgos Lanthimos film and it definitely WAS an experience.

Steven (Colin Farrell) is a cardio-surgeon and he has befriended the son of one of his patients who has died. Whilst this starts out all very respectful it eventually turns into something more sinister, causing grief, stress and, ultimately, an incredibly hard decision.

When Steven and Anne’s son, Bob, suddenly falls ill and is unable to use his legs, the stress starts to show, the mask of control and emotionlessness begins to slip. But then they fall back into Lanthimos’ style between these punctuations of emotion and energy which gives it a definite surreal quality. However, when his daughter Kim also succumbs to this illness, things begin to become clear and we understand the situation more fully, and in knowing this, it heightens the tension more (in terms of plot, not from the actions of the characters on screen, which is strange).

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Both Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell are really impressive in this. They maintain the style throughout but still manage to convey their emotions, no mean feat. But the stand out performance is from Barry Keoghan (who had a role earlier in the year in Dunkirk). He is at once polite and also malevolent and, in keeping in the style of the film, maintains a composure that is beyond his years. It is pretty chilling stuff.

This film is gorgeously shot and incredibly acted but unfortunately, for me, the plot left something to be desired. On top of this I wasn’t sure about the stilted, emotionless, perfunctory dialogue delivery and this is a shame as there is a really good film in here but it just didn’t quite work for me. It was certainly an interesting take and the style and acting gave something I hadn’t seen before. Overall I think I liked this, but then again maybe I didn’t. Much like the characters I have ended up surprisingly emotionless on this as the alternatives are too confusing to work out!

Overall Rating:    

Journeyman

Journeyman is Paddy Considine’s second feature film in which he writes and directs, and stars in this one too. It tells the story of Matty Burton a hardworking boxer who wins a World Championship belt and subsequently manages to defend his title against a younger, brasher opponent (‘The Future’) but in doing so he suffers a devastating brain injury that takes away almost everything that he was. Previously a dedicated, loving, family man, full of vitality and life he is now limited in his movement and abilities. As we go on he becomes withdrawn, impatient and aggressive  due to his injury and inability to complete, or even remember, the simplest task or most prominent memory.

As we are exploring this aftermath, Matty’s friends, his backroom boxing team, remain absent so it is up to his wife Emma (in an excellent performance from Jodie Whittaker) to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together in some semblance of a life. Eventually it becomes too much for her to handle both him and their little baby, Mia, as well.

I could say that this is another fight, the biggest fight of his life but that would be a weak cliche, and at times it does touch on these cliches but for the most part I found it to be an earnest, heartfelt family drama. Matty works so hard to regain the things that he lost and hopes beyond hope that he has done enough to bring back his family. I have never been a big fan of Paddy but I thought he was fantastic in this, to go from the virile, macho boxer to debilitated, incapable dependant is impressive. His mannerisms to portray the effects of this injury were breathtaking and heartbreaking to see.

This isn’t an easy film to watch. Rock bottom is hit and then you think that there isn’t anywhere else to go he manages to find a little bit more. The performances are all excellent, the story is decent, even with some of the more cliched moments I can gloss over but for the most part this is an engaging, emotional drama.

Overall Rating:    ½

The Square

The winner of the Palme d’Or at this years Cannes Festival, Ruben Östlund’s The Square is a quirky, funny, irreverently satirical film centring around a museum art curator and loosely about their plan to advertise and marketise their latest exhibition, The Square – a 4m x 4m square of ground that attempts to engage people in questioning their values as humans.

As the art exhibition for The Square is about to open and curator Christian (Claes Bang) gets his wallet and phone stolen in an elaborate performance, when he finds out he tracks down the phones location and hand delivers letters to tower block address to try to get it back. This leads to more complications that continue throughout the entirety of the film that impact on his ability to perform his role and leads to some decisions not being given the time and consideration that they deserve. Whilst this is one part of the film it isn’t really about any one thing but lots of little things, all tied together by Christian.

Claes Bang really does a wonderful job as the slightly egotistical, privileged Christian, who has to take a long hard look at himself the further we go into the film, and he is ably backed up by his team at the Museum, providing a great variety of characters and interactions but this is Christian’s film. There are some great little cameo-ish roles from Elizabeth Moss and Dominic West and they are maybe given too much billing in the marketing of this film (although they are big names it doesn’t feel right to give them the same emphasis as Claes). Coming in at 142 minutes it is long and could probably do with losing about 20-30 minutes towards the end as, for me, it started to drag as the scenes lost some of their potency and their punchiness but up until then it is thoroughly engaging and sprinkled with some great humour.

Overall Rating: