Parents' Guide to

You Were Never Really Here

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Bleak but effective thriller is brutally violent.

Movie R 2018 90 minutes
You Were Never Really Here Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 16+

Gorgeous, but not for the faint of heart

Wow...Director Ramsey does it again! This time she makes us all want to look away and mesmerized at the same time. Phoenix knocks it out of the park with an incredible performance. He is fragile yet immensely angry. The tension is intense and drives the film forward. The film is both extremely violent yet also subdued. A gorgeous undertaking.
age 18+

Interesting and disturbing film - surely should be 18 rating

Having watched this I am mystified as to why it is rated 15 and not 18. The subject matter (sexual exploitation of children), recurring themes and imagery of self-harm/suicide fantasies/domestic abuse, the violence and the gore surely warrant a higher rating. Overall a disturbing but effective film, but not for kids.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much swearing

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3):
Kids say (3):

Ramsay is at the height of her filmmaking powers here, maximizing the impact of her brutal story. Phoenix is ideally cast as a force that's unstoppable until the big case breaks his momentum. You Were Never Really Here is anything but your standard noir thriller. It's not focused on solving a big mystery, and it doesn't have any of the other trappings of the genre. And despite its savagery, it's definitely not about fetishizing violence. This film is about the dark, twisting journey of Joe's soul as he tries to function in a world without justice. Phoenix's committed, unadorned work feels authentic. You feel you're with him, sensing all along that this can't turn out well. And as the kidnapped girl, young Samsonov is extremely effective. She keeps you guessing as to exactly how she's coming out of this tunnel of horrors.

Ramsay won a screenplay award at Cannes for the film, and the script is admirably pared down, if a touch confusing at times. But her directorial command is even more impressive. Her collaboration with cinematographer Thomas Townend (known for music videos), editor Joe Bini (known for documentary work), and veteran sound designer Paul Davies results in a distinctive experience that's rife with texture and emotion. The outstanding score by Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood) veers from electronic beats to treated guitars to piano bass notes that are struck so hard you can practically feel the hammers on the strings. Ramsay brings all these elements together to take you inside Joe. She shows us exactly what she wants us to see, and when. After we've witnessed Joe in action, we skip the next round of fatal beatings to move on to what's most important. The filmmaker of We Need to Talk About Kevin is as unsentimental in her approach as her main character is in his. She explores the life of a person who would do what Joe does without getting bogged down in talk or set pieces. It all feels real, and it makes a very strong impression.

Movie Details

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