A note: I rarely, if ever, use the word “masterpiece” in any material I output about films either recently released or yet to be released, because in most cases that’s a bullshit word used in bullshit contexts for bullshit reasons by bullshit people. Most often, you hear about masterpieces on the festival circuit before the hailed film has a theatrical release date (or even a fucking distributor, in a few odd cases here and there). Like so many words rendered inert through overuse – like “epic,” or “awesome,” or “slam,” or “actually,” or “like” – “masterpiece” has slowly lost its meaning, having been abused by critics unworthy of the privilege bestowed on them by their standing admission on the festival gravy train*.
I say all of this because I am very sorely highly tempted to refer to Lynne Ramsay’s new film, You Were Never Really Here, as an unqualified masterpiece. I’m within one word of doing just that in my review for Paste Magazine, sparing myself the label of “hypocrite” through a well-placed “arguably,” because I learned from the school of “consider the opposition,” which to me is just a pretty way of saying, “watch your ass.” (Thanks, Professor Myers.) I prepared for You Were Never Really Here by revisiting Ramsay’s old films, or just plain old visiting them, and let me tell you upfront that all of my preparation left me unprepared for the experience. It’s very much like Ratcatcher, and Morvern Callar, and We Need To Talk About Kevin, and it’s also unlike each of them, which, if you ask me (and you reading this is more or less the same damn thing as asking me, isn’t it?), is part of what makes You Were Never Really Here so great.
Maybe I’m just an easy lay. I like hitman movies. I like revenge movies. I love Joaquin Phoenix and Ramsay. My favorite movie of all time, Oldboy, is home to a truly breathtaking fight scene involving a lone man swinging a hammer at a bunch of gangsters. “Well, all that considered, of course you liked You Were Never Really Here,” you’re thinking to yourself because, for some reason, you are feeling unreasonably smug. (Knock it off.) You’re not quite wrong, either, but there’s more here than a great, tormented, muscular lead performance from Phoenix, more than bloody vengeance, more than action. I don’t have PTSD, and I can’t vouch for what it’s like to have PTSD, but if I had to pick a movie that characterizes what living with PTSD is like, it might be this one.
This is an usually long share post for me, but that’s just an expression of the depth of my feelings for You Were Never Really Here. I linked my review at Paste once already. I’ll do it again here. I will say in a cautioning voice that this movie might not be for everyone – or for you – but it’s an incredible achievement on its own merits. If I see ten films in 2018 that are better, I’ll delete this blog.