You Were Never Really Here, Joaquin Phoenix’s dark and violent quest

Film still of You Were Never Really Here © WhyNot Productions

Having presented We Need to Talk about Kevin at Cannes in 2011, the Scottish director Lynne Ramsay returns to the Competition with You Were Never Really Here, a dramatic thriller starring Joaquin Phoenix. 

In her new feature film – a dark tale adapted from Jonathan Ames' eponymous novel, Lynne Ramsay returns to examine adult-child relations, a theme already addressed in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which painted a picture of the ambiguous relationship between a mother and her violent son. The film, which drew particular plaudits for the performance of Tilda Swinton, introduced the young actress Ezra Miller to the public.

This time, the tables are turned. You Were Never Really Here features war veteran Joe, who sets off in search of a senator's missing daughter. Faced with a onslaught of vengeance and corruption, he is drawn reluctantly into a spiral of violence. The brutal and tortured adult is played by  Joaquin Phoenix. Opposite him, the young girl he tries to save is played by Ekaterina Samsonov, who also appears in Wonderstruck by Todd Haynes, in Competition.

You Were Never Really Here marks the return of Lynne Ramsay to the Festival de Cannes. Having won the Jury prize on two occasions for the shorts Small Deaths in 1996 and Gasman in 1998, the director presented Ratcatcher at Un Certain Regard in 1999 before entering the Competition with We Need to Talk about Kevin in 2011. The filmmaker, who alternates between shorts and features, also served as a member of the Jury in 2013 under the presidence of Steven Spielberg.