Orla Smith’s review published on Letterboxd:
LFF 2017 #31
Torn between whether I love having seen You Were Never Really Here before everyone else because I get to shove it in all your faces... but also being agonised by the fact that there is NO-ONE I can discuss it with. This is a film that begs to be thought and thought and thought about, and there is nowhere I can put my thoughts until March. They're left swirling about my head, and they want to be freed.
Besides maybe Call Me by Your Name, this was my most anticipated film of LFF; Lynne Ramsay is a goddess, and every one of her films is perfect. I left YWNRH more conflicted than I might have expected, but not in an 'I'm disappointed that this wasn't perfect' way... I don't know if it's perfect or not. It made me question what it is I value in cinema as a whole. The imagery is so potent and in your face that it could be accused of being on-the-nose - the work of an artist with an inflated sense of self importance. One thing YWNRH is not is subtle. But it's not trying to be... and Ramsay's imagery and sound is so fucking loaded. With many of these 'self-important artists', the imagery is bold but hollow. With her, every single element has purpose. So does it matter that a lot of it is pushed right to the surface? I'll need another viewing to sort out my thoughts.
I was plastered to my seat after the final shot. Couldn't have moved during the credits if I'd wanted to. I staggered out of the cinema and immediately had to call someone to talk about it - and tried to murmur my thoughts even though I wasn't able to say what I wanted to say. I wanted to talk about specific scenes, and I still do, but I can't. One scene completely flattened me with how unexpected and specific it is; a small touch that demonstrates the uniqueness of Ramsay as an artist. Nobody would think to put a moment like that in a story like this, except her.
The images haven't left my head. I still see flashes of them. I'm wrestling with them so much, and I love that. It's a stressful film, because it puts you in its lead character's headspace more than anything I've ever seen before. It reminds me so strongly of The Headless Woman, because both of them do this: warping your sense of reality, plunging you so fully into the character's subjectivity that nothing can be taken at face value, but you're so caught up in this feeling that you don't have the time or the will to take a step back and question the reality you're being presented with.
It feels like The Headless Woman, and it feels like Drive, and it feels like a bad hangover, and it feels like being repeatedly bludgeoned over the head with a hammer.