You Were Never Really Here

Out Now On-Demand

Joaquin Phoenix won Best Actor at Cannes for his role in this thriller from the director of We Need to Talk About Kevin.

"A missing teenage girl. A brutal and tormented enforcer on a rescue mission. Corrupt power and vengeance unleash a storm of violence that may lead to his awakening." (Cannes Film Festival)



Winner of Best Screenplay (tied with The Killing of a Sacred Deer) and Best Actor (Phoenix), 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Directed by

  • Lynne Ramsay('We Need to Talk About Kevin', 'Morvern Callar', 'Ratcatcher')

Written by

  • Lynne Ramsay
  • (based on the novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames)

Drama, Mystery, Thriller


Rating: R16 Violence, offensive language, sexual material & content that may disturb

USA, France

Lynne Ramsay is an extraordinary filmmaker. The disjointed, dream-like editing style she uses is reminiscent of Jean-Marc Vallée—only instead of evoking beauty, she creates disturbing screen nightmares. You Were Never Really Here, her latest, upends the classic tale of a hitman with a heart of gold, stripping all romanticism out of it to present an ugly look at broken people doing terrible things to other broken people.

It's a highly impressive film, anchored by the gripping lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix; but like We Need to Talk About Kevin, for some viewers it'll be too grim for its own good.

While a lot of violence happens off-screen, this is still one of the most brutal things you'll see this year, easily. It's not just that the subject matter deals candidly with paedophiles and their vicious comeuppance, it's the oppressive, cold way the whole thing is put together. It's a trip into the grimy, terrifying criminal underworld most of us never get exposed to, thank f–ck. The portrayal of corruption and the blatant impunity of the powerful is particularly potent given the current state of the world, too.

A special mention must be given to Jonny Greenwood for his unique, unsettling score that perfectly matches the darkness of the images. Speaking of which, Thomas Townend's low-lit cinematography is fantastic, but it's really editor Joe Bini and of course Ramsay herself whose talents bring this experience to life. Her ability to visually express the inner torment and mental trauma of her characters is quite something.

There's so much going for this film, it has such extraordinary craft on display. I do wish it made for a more enjoyable watch, or perhaps said something more meaningful about the human condition. But as an exercise in intensity that emphasises how shitty humanity is, it sure is an achievement.



To watch Phoenix, an actor at the height of his dramatic powers, on screen and under Ramsey's direction makes You Were Never Really Here something of a must-see.

Little White Lies


You Were Never Really Here presents as Ramsay's first genre offering, ramping up the body count and bloodshed, while maintaining her usual focus on unusual characters.

The Guardian (UK)


The ghost of Travis Bickle haunts this nightmarish and humidly absorbing psychological drama from Lynne Ramsay.

The Telegraph (UK)


In these staggeringly taut 85 minutes, Ramsay sees a hopeless universe in a jelly bean.

Variety (USA)


Ramsay has made more sensually rapturous films, but this may be her most formally exacting: No shot or cut here is idle or extraneous.



You Were Never Really Here is a powerful assault of a film, but it's missing its director's inimitable poetry.

The Times (UK)


If you're still with the movie after the first ten minutes you're probably with it for the long haul (and possibly for life - it lingers).

Total Film (UK)


Lynne Ramsay returns with a scuzzy, stripped-back thriller focused on the man, rather than the mission.

NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)


It's spellbinding stuff and Ramsay's sensual style of story-telling is undeniably compelling.

Good at times

Joaquin Phoenix is great in this. The story is explosive and relentless at times but some beautiful scenes also. So it doesn't add up that for the most part, it felt a little dull and not entertaining...Perhaps too high expectations going in...

Slow-burn Phoenix

Slow-burn, moody, combat vet rescues kid movies are always in the shadow of Taxi Driver, but director Lynne Ramsey delivers the existential dread in spades. With shades of brutal Brit noirs Get Carter and Mona Lisa, a dash of Man on Fire, and a powerhouse performance by Joaquin Phoenix, it’s mesmerising, dark and broody, but never connects emotionally, leaving the viewer a voyeur to the seedy underbelly of modern life on screen. Which may well be the point. Worth seeing for Joaquin’s immersive performance and Ramsey’s taut direction, but ultimately it can’t escape a feeling of been-there, seen-that, washed-up tough guy gains redemption by rescuing innocent kid déjà vu.