You Were Never Really Here

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You Were Never Really Here
You Were Never Really Here.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLynne Ramsay
Screenplay byLynne Ramsay
Based onYou Were Never Really Here
by Jonathan Ames
Produced by
CinematographyThomas Townend
Edited byJoe Bini
Music byJonny Greenwood
Distributed byStudioCanal (United Kingdom)
Amazon Studios (United States)
SND Films (France)[1]
Release dates
  • 27 May 2017 (2017-05-27) (Cannes)
  • 8 November 2017 (2017-11-08) (France)
  • 9 March 2018 (2018-03-09) (United Kingdom)
  • 6 April 2018 (2018-04-06) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • United States
Box office$9.4 million[3]

You Were Never Really Here (released as A Beautiful Day in France and Germany) is a 2017 neo-noir crime psychological thriller film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay.[4] 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. In the film, a traumatized mercenary named Joe (Phoenix) is hired by a politician to find and rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped by a human trafficking network, which Joe is instructed to destroy by any violent means. The film was co-produced between the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

An early cut premiered at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival in competition,[5][6] where Ramsay won the award for Best Screenplay and Phoenix the award for Best Actor.[7] The film was released by StudioCanal 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.[8] It received critical acclaim, with Ramsay's direction and Phoenix's performance garnering high praise.


Joe is a traumatized hired gun who specializes in rescuing 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 of 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.

As he comes home one night, Joe is seen by Moises, the son of Angel, who acts as middleman between Joe and his handler, John McCleary. Joe tells McCleary that Angel knows his address and may pose a security risk. McCleary assigns Joe a new job from Albert Votto, a New York State Senator. 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 an anonymous text. Joe stakes out the brothel, kills several security guards and patrons, and rescues Nina. While Joe and Nina await Votto's arrival in a hotel room, the news reports that Votto has committed suicide. Police officers gain access to the room with the help of the desk clerk, kill the clerk, and take Nina. Joe escapes after killing an officer sent to kill him.

Joe finds that government agents killed McCleary, Angel, and Moises while searching for Joe's address. Arriving back at his home, Joe discovers that two agents have murdered his mother and have been waiting for him. He kills one agent and mortally wounds the other. This agent says that Governor Williams is directing the authorities to cover up the trafficking and Nina is Williams's favorite. Joe drives to a forest, fills his pockets with stones, and gives his mother a water burial. As he sinks into the water, he has a vision of Nina. Joe removes the stones from his pockets and swims back to the surface.

Joe follows Williams to his country home and fights his way in, only to discover Williams with his throat slit. He searches the house and discovers Nina, who is seated at a dining room table, alongside a bloody straight razor. Although Joe has become increasingly upset, Nina reassures him that she is alright. The two go to a diner to discuss their future. Joe has a violent suicidal fantasy and passes out. Nina wakes him, saying, "It's a beautiful day." He agrees, and they leave together.



Phoenix’s performance and Ramsay’s direction garnered praise from critics at the Cannes Film Festival. Phoenix won the festival's Best Actor Award and Ramsay won the Best Screenplay Award.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] Principal photography took place during August 2016 in and around New York City.[12][13] Some interior scenes were shot at Kaufman Astoria Studios. On 2 May 2017, it was confirmed that composer Jonny Greenwood would score the film.[14] The film was still a work in progress when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 27 May 2017.[15][16]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 285 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."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 84 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[18]

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."[19] 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."[20]

Critics Leah Pickett and Abraham Raphael noted similarities between You Were Never Really Here and the 1976 film Taxi Driver[21][22] with both films involving friendships between an adult male and a child victim of prostitution and exploring the seedy underworld of New York City.


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
British Academy Film Awards 10 February 2019 Outstanding British Film Lynne Ramsay, Rosa Attab, Pascal Caucheteux, and James Wilson Nominated [23]
British Independent Film Awards 2 December 2018 Best British Independent Film Lynne Ramsay, Pascal Caucheteux, Rosa Attab, James Wilson and Rebecca O’Brien Nominated [24]
Best Director Lynne Ramsay Nominated
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix Nominated
Best Screenplay Lynne Ramsay Nominated
Best Cinematography Thomas Townend Nominated
Best Editing Joe Bini Nominated
Best Music Jonny Greenwood Won
Best Sound You Were Never Really Here Won
Cannes Film Festival 28 May 2017 Palme d'Or You Were Never Really Here Nominated [25]
Best Actor Joaquin Phoenix Won
Best Screenplay Lynne Ramsay Won
Independent Spirit Awards 23 February 2019 Best Feature Rosa Attab, Pascal Caucheteux, Rebecca O’Brien, Lynne Ramsay and James Wilson Nominated [26]
Best Director Lynne Ramsay Nominated
Best Male Lead Joaquin Phoenix Nominated
Best Editing Joe Bini Won
Noir Film Festival 9 December 2017 Special Jury Award Lynne Ramsay Won [27]
Black Lion You Were Never Really Here Nominated


  1. ^ "You Were Never Really Here". Box Office Mojo. IMDb.
  2. ^ "A Beautiful Day". Centre National de la Cinématographie. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  3. ^ "You Were Never Really Here". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Flick picks: 'You Were Never Really Here' is a brutal, moody neo-noir". 6 April 2018.
  5. ^ "The 2017 Official Selection". Cannes Film Festival. 13 April 2017. Archived from the original on 17 April 2017. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Debruge, Peter (28 May 2017). "2017 Cannes Film Festival Award Winners Announced". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Cannes reception:
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Thursday, Aug. 18 Filming Locations for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Chicago Fire, Homeland, Bull, & more!". On Location Vacations. 18 August 2016. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  13. ^ "NJ DOS - NJ Film - New Jersey Filmography".
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Pritchard, Tiffany (30 May 2017). "Lynne Ramsay: 'You Were Never Really Here' isn't finished". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  17. ^ "You Were Never Really Here (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 October 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  18. ^ "You Were Never Really Here Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  19. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (6 April 2018). "You Were Never Really Here". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  20. ^ Lodge, Guy (26 May 2017). "Film Review: 'You Were Never Really Here'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  21. ^ Abraham, Raphael (29 June 2018). "You Were Never Really Here — Taxi Driver for the age of Uber". Financial Times. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  22. ^ Pickett, Leah (12 April 2018). "You Were Never Really Here updates Taxi Driver to an even colder urban landscape". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  23. ^ "EE British Academy Film Awards Nominees in 2019". BAFTA. 9 January 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  24. ^ Brown, Mark (31 October 2018). "The Favourite dominates British independent film award nominations". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  25. ^ Debruge, Peter (28 May 2017). "2017 Cannes Film Festival Award Winners Announced". Variety. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  26. ^ Kate Erbland (16 November 2018). "2019 Independent Spirit Award Nominations". Indiewire.
  27. ^ "Handia è il film vincitore del Noir in Festival 2017". Retrieved 29 November 2018.

External links[edit]