By Olivia Norwood, Edited by Therese Gardner
As many know by now, Joaquin Phoenix is Hollywood’s leading man for out-of-the-box films. He even lands himself Oscar nominations for them (Walk the Line, Gladiator, The Master). But never a win. In 2018, Phoenix may just break that snub streak with his gripping and demanding performance in You Were Never Really Here, a film so brilliant that I’m calling it the best of 2018.
Phoenix plays Joe, an abuse victim and Dexter-like hitman, who’s recent job is to rescue a senator’s daughter from a sex ring. On paper, this sounds like a Taken kind of film but it is so far from it. It’s more about a troubled man suffering from PTSD and depression.
Throughout the film, Joe has intense childhood flashbacks that he suppresses to keep from being distracted. He was severely abused by his psychotic father, who also abused his mother, and was left with plenty of visible scars along his entire body. Other flashbacks are of his previous experiences as a contract killer and as a soldier. *Spoiler Alert*
Some included memories of a group of dead young girls in the back of a U-Haul and a child who was shot because he had food. Needless to say, this guy has been through hell and back and this huge weight that he carries constrains him to silently attempt suicide multiple times.
I won’t spoil what happens in those scenes, but all I have to say is that Joaquin deserves an award and a hug for what he had to do.
His character is truly put through the ringer and the audience is there for it all. Watching it, I couldn’t help but cry and feel the utmost compassion for him even though he killed people for a living. It might just be me and my insane attachment to characters or it could be director and writer Lynne Ramsay’s twisted way of yanking emotion out of me. Ramsay, also director of We Need to Talk About Kevin (she really loves those long titles), really knows what she’s doing when it comes to darker subject matter. Her attention to detail and character development is what made this film so appealing to the senses.
As for the chameleon man Phoenix, I am never disappointed in a performance of his but this one beat all of my expectations and all of the performances this year. Of course, there are still plenty of films still left (considering it is only April) but I’m putting this one at the top of my list. It’s hard to believe that this man has never won any of the Oscars he was nominated for.
But don’t let your hopes down because You Were Never Really Here may just be a hit amongst the Academy. This means a possibility of Lynne Ramsay receiving her first nomination and Joaquin Phoenix his first win.
My Rating: 96%