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You Were Never Really Here (Blu-ray Review)

Crafting some buzz and nabbing up some awards (Best Screenplay, Best Actor) at the Cannes Film Festival, You Were Never Really Here comes all the way to Blu-ray from Lionsgate. Lynne Ramsay’s film is fashioned as a “Taxi Driver for a new century!” with a lot of praise coming for the performance of lead actor and Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix. Unfortunately, this release is looking pretty hollow in terms of bonus features being included, so you’ll have to take it all on the movie alone. If you’re a big fan of the movie or you’re just gonna go charging in with that Blu-ray fan tradition of blind buying, you can use our Amazon link at the end of the review to pre-order yourself a copy. You Were Never Really Here will make its debut on Blu-ray July 17th.

Film 

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 become his death trip or his awakening.

Well, now we have ourselves a Joaquin Phoenix bloody, angry revenge guy fable that were hoping to get. You Were Never Really Here feels like a more abstract kind of low key action picture that usually would be a B-film that gets A level buzz and crafts a comeback for a past their prime actor. Instead, we get an actor who is still living in some glory with a film that is carefully crafted and calculated with much flavor and character.

Above, in the intro paragraph, I brought up a quote that is on the box of the movie comparing it to Taxi Driver. And with what part of this story’s narrative deals in make for an easy connection. However, with the tone of the film, the style and how the people portray their characters, this film is much close to a less talked about, but amazing film called Blue Ruin. And I don’t mean to take away from the high praise of Taxi Driver, but Blue Ruin should equally be high praise as well. There’s a quiet paranoia hanging around in every scene no matter how destructive or intense it can get. And honestly, while deeply disturbed, dealing with mental battles trying to fight similar things, Travis Bickle and Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joe” feel kinda sorta very different.

Phoenix is his normal top dollar performer self here in the film. This one isn’t so much in his words as it is a very facial and body performance. And its incredible what he communicates nonverball throughout the film, even just sitting in a chair with no one around. Adding an extra challenge is the fact he has a huge beard, bushier hair and wears hats all the time. You STILL get a very good wave of his mind and his feelings. Its a great performance, not just on what it lends to him on paper and beyond all the brutal killing.

I haven’t seen it in many years, but I was a big fan of We Need To Talk About Kevin when it came out. Lynne Ramsay continues showing her talents here. Though, Kevin and this one are the only ones I’ve seen, admittedly. She has a crazy sense of cool and showcasing her violence in clever, artistic and unpredictable ways. The kills themselves are pretty grounded and brutal, its how she shows them that really wins this one over. You never know what kind of contact you’re going to get from the hammer when it is swung. There are also some effect perspective shots that really embolden you to feeling like you’re making these choices. Its not a movie that outright looks like a visual paradise, but it secretly is well constructed and is quite an intelligent piece of imagery.

You Were Never Really Here is a really solid film with high merits in the way its presented. Nothing Earth shattering unless you’re a fan of craft. If you’re not one who appreciates artistic merits or what it takes to make something like this, this Lynne Ramsay film isn’t really going to stand out. You’ll probably see it as a boring version of Taken. Its a bit more than that movie on a deeper level. If you’re the popcorn Netflix scrolling type, this one probably is worth a skip. But if you’re a fan of things like Blue Ruin or, hell, Taxi Driver, this is probably more up your alley.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: You Were Never Really here takes on the very solid, above average Lionsgate look for a new film (If that means anything to anyone outside of me). It has a sharp, crispness with very good detail, but doesn’t really wow or go overboard but is better than most. Colors are pretty well saturated for a more natural look to things. A more than solid visual experience.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty solid here with good spacing between characters and their environments. Some of the better moments occur in Joe’s mom’s home. Movements are smooth and natural.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and surprisingly hold on to detail quite well. There was someone with a really dark baseball cap on, and you could still see stitchings and grooves on the bill. No crushing was witnessed on my viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty natural with red peaking out more due to the blood. Which, the blood is darker, but it has a nice bold look to it. Some colors get a nice bump when used as some lights raising up on the screen or filtering in.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial details and textures can be seen very well in close ups and with good success in further back shots with no real instances of smoothing.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: You Were Never Really Here is a pretty quiet film. There are lots of scenes with really not much going on, no score or just two people talking. However, there are little pieces of sound and effects come well rounded to try to give a lifelike feel for each environment. The mix is well balanced and can really bring the heat when it needs to by bursting the score through or adding an extra oompf to a hammer hit.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Gunfire, slamming, punches and the score all find some nice deep rumbles on the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This one floats more to the front, but the rear channels do get involved in some environment creation as well as helping to force out the score in big moments. Sound travel is plenty accurate as is volume placement.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Actors are more intentionally quiet, but it never feels like the mix is intentionally low or anything.

Extras 

You Were Never Really Here comes with a digital copy of the film. There are no supplemental features for the film

Summary 

You Were Never Really Here is a solid revenge-type character study film with quality artistic production values and direction.  Lionsgate’s release has a solid picture and video performance. However, there are no extras here. Its a real shame they couldn’t have least done a commentary. But, here we go, JUST the movie. And with that, you’ll just have to judge your desire on that alone at the right price.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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