“If she’s there, I’ll get her back.”


A refreshingly different take on the hired killer movie that stands in stark contrast to the slick professionalism of John Wick, Joe is capable but plagued by the trauma of his work and his past. Joaquin Phoenix is a deliberate and slow-moving burly mass (physically the antithesis of his emaciated Joker) wielding a brutal hammer (think OldBoy). That I couldn’t decide how I felt about You Were Never Really Here whilst watching it is a testament to Lynne Ramsay’s skill at subjective filmmaking — everything is experienced from Joe’s perspective. In particular, this lends itself to a powerful depiction of trauma, bleeding into reality in short bursts of debilitating intrusive thoughts rather than the pop culture staples of narrative flashback or violent outburst. Moments of quiet, ethereal beauty feel equally appropriate. The film ventures into dark territory of child trafficking at the hands of political elite but, although Joe gets embroiled in this intrigue, there is no thriller-like mystery to unravel. Comparisons with Taxi Driver are warranted, particularly in the exploration of social isolation, although Ramsay’s focus is narrower, pared back to the essentials with a running time of under 90 minutes.