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You Were Never Really Here 2018 ***

Lynne Ramsey has blazed a somewhat unique trail since her short Gasman; Ratcatcher and Morven Caller were promising rather than complete, but she comes of age as a director with You Were Never Really Here, an elliptical view of a hit-man’s disintegrating consciousness which has more than a touch of the late Nicolas Roeg about it. Joaquin Phoenix immerses himself to a disturbing degree as Joe, a jaded, exhausted killer who finds motivation and meaning in taking on a child-sex ring and working his way up the chain, rubbing everyone out as they go. It’s the kind of vigilante fantasy that would have made an ideal vehicle for Charles Bronson or Steven Segal, but Ramsey treats it very differently, making something lyrical and almost poetic in Joe’s agonising throes. The ending isn’t satisfactory, and the material sometimes reveals clichéd roots, but these defects only hit home afterwards; while Ramsey’s film unspools, it’s hypnotic and as compellingly lurid as the subject demands.

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