Prime Video movie of the day: You Were Never Really Here is incredibly stylish and deeply disturbing

A still from the movie you were never really here
You Were Never Really Here isn't for the faint-hearted. (Image credit: Amazon Studios/StudioCanal)
Movie of the Day

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Empire magazine's description of You Were Never Here as "dark, disturbing, and difficult" may well be an understatement. Indeed, this crime drama flick, which is one of thousands of movies you can stream on Prime Video, aka one of the world's best streaming services, was a smash hit with critics but proved deeply divisive with audiences. How so? Mostly because it's a really hard watch. 

For the uninitiated: based on Jonathan Ames' 2013 novel of the same name, it's a tale of a contract killed (played by Joaquin Phoenix) hired to rescue a young girl (Ekaterina Samsonov) from a brothel. Oh, and he needs to kill everyone else in said location. 

What would in other hands be a fairly typical hitman flick is something very different, thanks in part to director Lynne Ramsay's artistic and brutal creative vision and Phoenix's multifaceted performance. Together, they deliver a gut-punching action-drama that'll live in your head long after the credits have rolled.

What made You Were Never Really Here so disturbing?

In shot: it's violent. Incredibly so, in fact. But, then so are many other thrillers, so what's different here? You Were Never Really Here focuses as much on psychological pain as it does on the physical, concentrating more on the aftermath of the violence than the actual blows themselves. It's a movie cenetred a deeply traumatized man who not only channels said trauma, but who is also changed by it. Heck, even those who positively reviewed have described its journey as "hellish", including Screen Junkies, which opined: "This is a beautifully rendered and told story that is absolutely torturous, but delightfully torturous to watch."

Others suggest that it's easier to admire than to love – Entertainment Weekly among them. Indeed, the website's reviewers noted that, while "there's no question that what you're watching is a masterfully-made movie", it's "easier to admire from afar than up close". That's pretty much the general consensus, too, with You Were Never Really Here being a disturbing but rewarding film; one that's hypnotic, challenging and far from the usual action-movie fare. As The Hub on Screen put it, "You could describe You Were Never Really Here as a hitman thriller, but it doesn't quite do justice to the bedazzling ways that Scottish director Lynne Ramsay... takes Jonathan Ames' novel and transforms it into a tender, fragmented nightmare".

Writing for The New Zealand Herald, Toby Woolaston added: "It's a rich blend of brutal beauty cut to a hypnotizing electronic score, all wonderfully balanced by Joaquin's physical performance -- it's spellbinding stuff and Ramsay's sensual style of story-telling is undeniably compelling". One for our best Prime Video movies list? Perhaps, but it's probably not one that'll pique the interest of many fans.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.