Jacob Suggs’s review published on Letterboxd:
Joaquin Phoenix gave one of the best performances that I've seen all year. I'm so glad that I only heard about this film through word of mouth and not by watching a single trailer, as I went in with high expectations with no idea of what the concept for the film's plot would be.
You Were Never Really Here is a great film that seems to be so underground that not many people have been discussing it. The film discusses PTSD in a way that feels super personal, and not like a generic plot device to bring out a grizzled and broken protagonist into the light once again. The disturbing thought and depressing mood lingers on as the film progresses, and doesn't stop-and shows just how deadly the effects of being involved with serious issues, cases, and the effects of war can have on a person.
Combine that with a pulsating score, and you really feel what this one man is going through currently, as well as the ghosts that haunt his past. There's so much more to this film that I loved, but I feel like the best possible way to watch it is exactly how I did: knowing nothing. I never knew that some deeply disturbing concepts and sequences could be executed with such beautiful artistry, or at least not like this. There's one particular scene that I thought was interestingly shot, and I'll never forget watching it for the first time.
Even the performance from 15 year old Ekaterina Samsonov was incredible, and felt extremely genuine. It was gripping, and really surprising for someone her age, as after looking it up after the film, I was completely in shock. She did a great job, and her performance was emotionally powerful, and really stood out.
I loved it. It was dark, depressing, and one of the more intense films that I've watched in a while. If you haven't seen this film, please do yourself a favor and watch it. Oh, and this film has some of the best editing I've seen all year. Easily. What a beautiful tragedy.