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You Were Never Really Here

Director:  Lynne Ramsay
Year Released:  2017
Rating:  1.5

Psychologically damaged war-vet Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), whose civilian job is to retrieve (very) young girls caught in sex trafficking rings, accepts an offer to locate Nina Votto (Ekaterina Samsonov), the daughter of a U.S. Senator ... except once he finds her, she immediately gets taken away from him. Ramsay, working from Jonathan Ames' "novella," tries to doll up the half-baked scenario with visual tricks, but the end product is hollow: post-traumatic stress disorder is presented in a sensationalized fashion (Phoenix tries to suffocate himself repeatedly with plastic bags) and the final third of the film, starting with Joe's murdered mother being submerged in a lake (by her own son), is a fragmented disaster worthy of multiple eye-rolls. I don't believe either Ramsey or Ames meant any disrespect towards suffering veterans and their unstable internal state - or to trivialize the very real problem of child abuse - but they probably should have gone for realism over what they consider 'poetry.' Phoenix, a National Treasure, remains a magnetic performer ... although he's often straddled with underwritten storylines.

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