You Were Never Really Here

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You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Produced by
  • Rosa Attab
  • Pascal Caucheteux
  • James Wilson
  • Lynne Ramsay
Screenplay by Lynne Ramsay
Based on You Were Never Really Here
by Jonathan Ames
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Cinematography Thomas Townend
Edited by Joe Bini
Distributed by Amazon Studios
Release date
  • 27 May 2017 (2017-05-27) (Cannes)
  • 8 November 2017 (2017-11-08) (France)
  • 9 March 2018 (2018-03-09) (UK)
  • 6 April 2018 (2018-04-06) (US)
Running time
90 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • France
Language English
Box office $7.4 million[2]

You Were Never Really Here is a 2017 psychological thriller crime drama film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay. Based on the 2013 novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames, it stars Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman, and Judith Roberts.

An unfinished version of the film premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival in competition,[3][4] where Ramsay won the Best Screenplay award and Phoenix won the award for Best Actor.[5] The film was released by Studio Canal in the UK, on 9 March 2018, and by Amazon Studios in the U.S., where it began a limited release in Los Angeles and New York on 6 April 2018, and a wide release on 20 April.[6]


Joe is a hired gun who rescues trafficked girls, using brutal methods against their captors. He cares for his elderly mother in his childhood home in New York City. Joe has flashbacks to the abuse he and his mother faced from his violent father, and his brutal past in the military and FBI, and is troubled by suicidal thoughts.

While meeting Angel, the middleman between him and his handler John McCleary, Joe is seen by Angel's son Moises. Joe tells McCleary that Angel knows his address and may pose a safety risk. McClearly gives Joe a new job: a New York State Senator, Albert Votto, has offered a large sum of money to discreetly rescue his abducted daughter, Nina. He gives Joe the address of a brothel for wealthy patrons sent via anonymous text.

Joe stakes out the brothel, kills several security guards and patrons, and rescues Nina. While they wait at a motel, the news reports that Votto has committed suicide. Police officers enter the motel room and take Nina. Another officer attempts to kill Joe, but Joe kills him and escapes.

Joe finds that government agents have killed McCleary, Angel, and Moises in search of his address. At his house, two agents have murdered his mother and are waiting for him. He kills one and mortally wounds the other, who reveals that Governor Williams is directing the authorities to cover up the trafficking, and that Nina is "his favorite".

Joe gives his mother a water burial. He loads his pockets with stones and goes into the water, but he has a vision of Nina and swims back to the surface.

Joe follows Williams to his country house and fights his way in, but discovers Williams with his throat slit. He finds Nina in the kitchen with a bloody straight razor. Later, as they eat at a diner, Joe collapses and has a violent suicidal fantasy. Nina wakes him, telling him, "It's a beautiful day." He agrees and they leave together.



On 11 May 2016, it was reported that Lynne Ramsay would write and direct an adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novella You Were Never Really Here, starring Joaquin Phoenix. The project would be shopped to Cannes buyers.[7] Although it was initially reported that A24 had acquired the project, Amazon Studios bought U.S. rights to You Were Never Really Here on 13 May 2016.[8] Principal photography took place during August 2016 in and around New York City.[9] On 2 May 2017, it was confirmed that composer Jonny Greenwood would score the film.[10] The film was still a work in progress when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 27 May 2017.[11][12]


You Were Never Really Here received a seven-minute standing ovation at its Cannes Film Festival premiere on 27 May 2017. Critics lauded Phoenix's performance, Ramsay's direction, and the musical score and editing.[13] Phoenix won the festival's Best Actor Award and Lynne Ramsay won the Best Screenplay Award.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 217 reviews, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bracingly elevated by a typically committed lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix, You Were Never Really Here confirms writer-director Lynne Ramsay as one of modern cinema's most unique—and uncompromising—voices."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[15]

Sheila O'Malley of gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, saying that the film "is a taut and almost unbearably intense 90-minutes, without an ounce of fat on it. Ramsay doesn't give you a second to breathe."[16] Guy Lodge for Variety said Ramsay may be the world's "greatest working filmmaker," and called the film "astonishing... a stark, sinewy, slashed-to-the-bone hitman thriller far more concerned with the man than the hit."[17] Matt Bobkin for Exclaim! gave the film a score of 9 out of 10, describing it as "dizzying, horrifying and utterly compelling."[18]


  1. ^ "A Beautiful Day". Centre National de la Cinématographie. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  2. ^ "You Were Never Really Here". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  3. ^ "The 2017 Official Selection". Cannes Film Festival. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  4. ^ Winfrey, Graham (13 April 2017). "2017 Cannes Film Festival Announces Lineup: Todd Haynes, Sofia Coppola, 'Twin Peaks' and More". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  5. ^ Debruge, Peter (28 May 2017). "2017 Cannes Film Festival Award Winners Announced". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  6. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (2 October 2017). "Joaquin Phoenix Noir 'You Were Never Really Here' Gets February Release". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  7. ^ Calvario, Liz (11 May 2016). "Joaquin Phoenix To Star In Lynne Ramsay's Sex Trafficking Thriller 'You Were Never Really Here'". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  8. ^ Keslassy, Elsa; Setoodeh, Ramin (13 May 2016). "Cannes: Amazon Sweeps in To Buy Joaquin Phoenix's 'You Were Never Really Here'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  9. ^ Christine (18 August 2016). "Thursday, Aug. 18 Filming Locations for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Chicago Fire, Homeland, Bull, & more!". On Location Vacations. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  10. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (2 May 2017). "Jonny Greenwood Scoring Lynne Ramsay's 'You Were Never Really Here' With Joaquin Phoenix". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  11. ^ Romney, Jonathan (27 May 2017). "You Were Never Really Here review: Joaquin Phoenix storms Lynne Ramsay's kidnap thriller". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  12. ^ Pritchard, Tiffany (30 May 2017). "Lynne Ramsay: 'You Were Never Really Here' isn't finished". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  13. ^ Cannes reception:
  14. ^ "You Were Never Really Here (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  15. ^ "You Were Never Really Here Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  16. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (6 April 2018). "You Were Never Really Here". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  17. ^ Lodge, Guy (26 May 2017). "Film Review: 'You Were Never Really Here'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  18. ^ Bobkin, Matt (17 April 2018). "You Were Never Really Here". Exclaim!. Retrieved 17 April 2018.

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