"Violent Thriller with a Broken, Mentally Ill Moral Compass"

Content: -3 Excessive content and/or worldview problems.

What You Need To Know:

In YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, Joe is a retired veteran who uses his military skills to get revenge on bad guys for kidnapping, killing and abusing women and teenage girls. A senator up for re-election hires Joe to retrieve his daughter, Nina, who got involved in an underage sex ring. Joe retrieves Nina, killing everyone in his path, but she’s soon kidnapped again. Feeling like a father figure, Joe becomes obsessed with rescuing Nina.

Based on a novel, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE never lets up the tension. Only a few scenes offer a brief respite from its world of suicidal thoughts, abusive flashbacks, bloody murders, and sexual depravity. Trapped in misery, the protagonist sees a ray of hope through Nina, and vice versa. This comes at a cost. In their broken mental states, they may think their actions are moral, but they’re both murderers who are never held accountable, almost like the bad guys. Along with examples of depravity, YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE has a morally conflicted worldview, lots of extreme violence and a fair amount of foul language.


(PaPa, B, C, LL, VVV, SS, NNN, A, D, MM):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong pagan worldview comes with an attitude that whatever has to be done to get what a person wants is the overriding goal, and, despite a morally uplifting desire to right wrongs and hold bad guys accountable, the “good guys” take the law into their own hands and commit crimes while attempting moral superiority, and there’s a brief symbolic shot of a Bible being used to put out a trashcan fire;

Foul Language:
21 obscenities including some “f” words, a man vomits, sound of girl urinating off screen;

Violence is extremely heavy, many scenes show or imply people being murdered with a hammer, several scenes show people being shot, one scene shows a man shooting himself in the head, a man gets shot in the head by someone else, a man almost commits suicide by putting a knife in his mouth, a man almost commits suicide by jumping from a bridge, a man almost commits suicide by drowning and another time by suffocating, a child shoots and kills another child in the Iraqi desert, a truck full of dead children is briefly shown, a man is attacked in an alley, a father and son are shot in the head, a mutilated man is shown murdered at his office desk with pools of blood, a dead woman is shown shot through the face while sleeping, a man is shown dead with his throat slit, a girl is shown eating a meal with bloody hands after committing a murder, an underage sex ring is shown with implied sex between men and little girls;

The act of sex is never shown, but naked men in rooms with little girls is shown, and the bad guys are involved in an underage sex ring;

Full male nudity in the context of sex, plus a painting shows a woman’s exposed breasts;

Alcohol Use:
Brief shots of casual drinking;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
One brief shot of a man smoking;

Miscellaneous Immorality:
A girl runs away from home and gets involved in an underage sex ring, a senator hires a hitman to hurt the people who are abusing his daughter, bad is twisted into good and vice versa as moral atrocities are committed in order to return to morality, and no one is held accountable by the law for murders or crimes committed.

More Detail:

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is a violent psychological thriller about a retired veteran who uses his military skills to get revenge on bad guys for kidnapping, killing and abusing women and teenage girls.

Joe lives with his elderly mother in Queens. By day, he tenderly cares for her, helping her polish the silver while singing children’s songs they’ve presumably sung their entire lives together and mopping up the bathroom floor after she makes a mess. By night, however, he finds and rescues teenage girls and is a ruthless killer when required.

Joe seems impervious to guilt over inflicting violence on others, a product of his PTSD condition from his service in Iraq and from a childhood full of abuse. In flashbacks throughout the movie, Joe is shown as a child with a plastic bag over his head in a suicide attempt (still a favorite tactic of his as an adult), although he never has the courage to go through with it. He doesn’t stop at plastic bags and teases death repeatedly with a knife, gun, a subway train, and rocks meant to weigh him down under water.

Joe’s situation seems hopeless. He’s been stuck in a loop of misery all his life, and he’s reluctantly willing to perpetuate it by working for a wealthy New York businessman, John, who acts as a middleman between Joe and his clients. One such client is a high-ranking senator from New York up for re-election. The senator’s concerned about getting his 13-year-old daughter, Nina, back, and instructs Joe to hurt the men who have abused her. She’s a troubled young teenager with a penchant for running away and has landed herself in the middle of an underage sex ring, apparently frequented by the state’s governor. Nina happens to be the governor’s favorite girl, so it’s no surprise when she’s kidnapped right out of Joe’s hands and taken to the governor’s sprawling country mansion.

After what Nina’s experienced and the violence she’s had to witness during her rescue attempt, she and Joe have begun to feel a platonic affection for each other. When news reaches them that her father has committed suicide, Joe’s affection turns protective, and he becomes obsessed with getting her back at all costs. The costs are high as the governor’s men go after him and those he loves.

Joe arrives at the governor’s mansion, hammer in hand, killing anyone in his way. However, he discovers a completely unexpected situation when he finally finds Nina, forcing him to confront the consequences of what he’s done.

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE is based on a novel by Jonathan Ames. It combines a myriad of directing styles which gives the movie a totally different look and feel from one scene to the next. However, one thing remains steady throughout, and that’s a constant tension that never seems to let up. It’s the manifestation of Joe’s inner turmoil, which is the movie’s primary focus instead of the plot. The different styles don’t detract from the storytelling and oddly fit together nicely. The one thing that is distracting is the sound engineering, which becomes a bit much in several scenes. The filmmakers are apparently trying to convey the claustrophobia of overwhelming noise that overtakes people when they’re in a delicate mental state, but they overdo it in a completely unnecessary fashion.

The movie’s two biggest drawbacks are the violence and worldview. The absolute worst of humanity is on display here, from killing to sexual depravity. Sadness, misery and anger are the predominant emotions conveyed, and for this movie at least, the entire world wallows in them. Only at the very end, do the characters share a glimpse of hope with Nina’s line, “It’s a beautiful day.” It’s a pathetic attempt to right all the wrongs of the previous 90 minutes, which sums up the other troubling morality of this movie. Accountability doesn’t exist in this world, so morality is relative to the individual’s situation. While an objective morality lingers somewhere in the background, the characters seem ambivalent about it, even though they’re deeply affected by the immorality imposed on them throughout their lives.

Also, the movie’s very gory, and there’s lots of it. The violence is accompanied by shots of full male nudity in the brothel, implications of sex with young girls and a fair amount of foul language.

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE warrants extreme caution for its excessive moral problems and inappropriate content.

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