You Were Never Really Here could just have been a movie about a somewhat crazy guy with a hammer. But it is so much more. It may be a slow burn but it never gets even remotely boring.

You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix in the all-important lead role. He plays the part to perfection and that’s no small feat.

This is also very much a Lynn Ramsey film, which means both pace and feature points differ from the norm. You Were Never Really Here is much more indie and alternative than it is Hollywood blockbuster.

To me, this is a very good thing. I love both, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world where every movie was full-on Hollywood movies. That would get both exhausting and tired real fast.

Simply perfect casting

If you liked We Need to Talk About Kevin, then you should love You Were Never Really Here. Just as it was the case with We Need to Talk About Kevin, which starred Tilda Swinton (Okja) and Ezra Miller (Justice League), the casting is of extreme importance.

Even though Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant in his own right, he has some amazing actors to work across from. We have Judith Roberts (the ventriloquist from James Wan’s Dead Silence) as his mom.

And, of course, there’s the young Ekaterina Samsonov, who portrays the girl, Nina, that needs to be rescued. She is really good and works perfectly to balance out Joaquin Phoenix.

You Were Never Really Here

The good, the bad, and the quirky

In a very Lynne Ramsey way, there are some absolutely mindblowing moments along the way. They pretty much won’t make sense if explained out of context. Actually, they even seem a bit crazy when watched in context, but you can’t help but surrender yourself to them.

One of my absolutely favorite scenes from You Were Never Really Here featured a song. The song “I’ve never been to me” by the singer Charlene is playing on the radio during a very particular moment. You may recognize the song from the iconic movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the DesertIf you do, it’ll only lend a little something extra to the scene.

Music by Jonny Greenwood

Overall, sound is very important in this movie. Even when sound seems to play a role all on its own and isn’t “just” there to drive emotion or storyline.

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is behind all the music for the movie, which is something he’s done a few times now. Usually for either Paul Thomas Anderson or Lynne Ramsey as it was the case here.

On several occasions, the movies have also starred Joaquin Phoenix, so clearly it’s a match made in movie heaven.

Perfect attention to detail

If the movies Thelma and The Killing of a Sacred Deer were somehow cross-cloned, then You Were Never Really Here would be the perfect offspring.

The insane (bordering on painful) audio from The Killing of a Sacred Deer has been modified to work perfectly here. And several elements from the lead protagonist in Thelma is recognizable in this movie. Both in terms of a past, we only see fractions of and also in regards to having actual power.

However, there is nothing supernatural about You Were Never Really Here. And there isn’t nearly as much violence as (some of) the trailers released would have you think. Yes, the lead character does use a hammer to get justice, but we rarely see him actually using it.

A brilliant little film by the amazing Lynne Ramsey. The story is simple but important, and the characters are fascinating. Make sure you watch this one!

You Were Never Really Here will be out on DVD and Blu-ray from July 17, 2018. 

Or you can watch it digitally via Amazon Prime Video now (this is not an affiliate link).


Director: Lynne Ramsay
Lynne Ramsay (written for the screen by), Jonathan Ames (book)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Dante Pereira-Olson, Larry Canady, Judith Roberts


A traumatized veteran, unafraid of violence, tracks down missing girls for a living. When a job spins out of control, Joe’s nightmares overtake him as a conspiracy is uncovered leading to what may be his death trip or his awakening.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard