You know, a lot of the time when I watch a movie I jot down physical or mental notes to use in my subsequent review, or so I remember what I thought and felt – many times I don’t write a review for months or years after watching the thing. As I was writing my notes and as the disjointed narrative sprawled out, I thought that hey, why don’t I just make my unfiltered jotted down notes the review. I’m no William Burroughs, but I’ve used this cut-up approach to reviews or discussions or pieces of work before – when the subject matter called for it. Plus, I’m lazy and can’t be bothered turning the words below into sentences and a format. So here it is – a pile of thoughts I had when I was watching It’s All About Love.
Thought it was a random romance, only recorded it because of Claire Danes. Then Joaquin Phoenix appears on screen and I wonder if the machine has recorded the wrong movie. Then it opens like some jaunty Coen brothers crime romp with unusual conversations, stilted vague dialogue, and a dead guy at the bottom of an escalator that everyone just ignores and steps over. Weird accents. Then Sean Penn appears, also with a weird accent. Then there’s a dead guy in a bin. What the hell is going on? Is this some parallel future? Background news reports of some deadly disease but no-one seems to care. People are randomly talking about flying. I’ll admit to being mesmerised. Always something going on in the background. Creepy kids singing soundtrack. Dimly lit Doppelgangers. Bridging Perfect Blue and Black Swan, by way of Mulholland Drive. Seems the world is failing because no-one loves anyone, though a lot of these people appear to love each other. Or is it obsession? I wonder what Wikipedia says. Claire Danes cried when she saw it – because it was bad, not because it was good. I’m not crying, but I’m still watching. There are bad guys and hinted at subplots. Now it’s Blade Runner. Seriously, why are they doing all these accents? Sean Penn is still on a plane. I have a feeling this isn’t going anywhere. There aren’t enough Claire Danes sex scenes in the world. Uh oh, everyone is getting killed. Why would you keep moving when the sniper is clearly only going to shoot you when you do. She’s still somehow alive. Now we’re going into a snowy wilderness. Is the whole world freezing? Everyone is having fun, then suddenly everyone is dead. Sean Penn is still on a plane.
What did you think of It’s All About Love? Let us know in the comments!
There’s so much to love and admire in You Were Never Really Here and it’s a film I dearly wanted to love. Unfortunately it suffers from one of my pet peeves in modern film-making – a lack of volume control. Now, after watching this I realized that this partly may be a problem with my TV set up, but I watched via TV and on my Kindle and the same issue occurred. After a bit of tinkering I was able to make things better, but the damage was already done. What is this problem I speak of? Essentially, the soundtrack is too loud, but the vocal mix is too low. What this means is that I’m constantly turning down the volume when the music is playing only to frantically turn it up for the dialogue, completely taking me out of the experience.
It’s a pity, because if this hadn’t been an issue for me then this would likely be one of my favourites of the year. There are few better visionary directors working today than Lynne Ramsay and here she is partnered with a rejuvenated Joaquin Phoenix. The film frequently looks spectacular, Ramsay’s visuals and the jarring editing and directing interweaving wonderfully with Jonny Greenwood’s superb score. On the surface, it’s another one of ‘those’ films – a guy with a gun goes through a bunch of bad guys to save an innocent soul, but in truth it isn’t really interested in the violence or the action, nor is it even really interested in the plot. The plot is simple to the point of irrelevance – Joe is a killer who specializes in saving kids. He is tasked with saving the daughter of a politician who has somehow been sucked into a child sex ring. Those in charge of the sex ring fight back. That’s it, a story you’ll see three times this year in Liam Neeson movies alone.
For Ramsay, it’s an excuse to peel back Joe’s damaged brain and see what’s inside, a soldier suffering from a life of abuse and bad shit – PTSD from warzones and a violent, abusive upbringing have turned him into a suicide fantasist whose dreams, reality, and flashbacks all wrestle for control. Normally these characterizations would lead to hackneyed scenes where the audience isn’t clear what is real and what is not, and while there is a touch of this to what Ramsay does, the more sudden and quick outbursts are more obvious to the viewer, giving us a greater impression of the level of breakage within Joe. The only other character worth speaking of is Joe’s Mother played by Judith Roberts (who somehow at 80-something years old is more beautiful than almost any other woman you’ll see on screen this year, apologies but it’s something I kept thinking while watching), who needs help with even the most simple task and is seemingly the only thing keeping Joe breathing. Nina, the girl Joe is tasked with rescuing, is nothing more than a maguffin – a blank canvas who is apparently so numb to the point that she doesn’t care if she is rescued or if the people around her are killed.
The violence in You Were Never Really Here is never front and centre – in fact much of it is off-screen or viewed at a glance. There’s a scene right at the end which could be shocking for some – I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you feel its resolution was a cop-out or not, but either way you get the impression that the future will not be as beautiful as the day Joe and Nina comment on. It’s another notch for Ramsay, but for me she hasn’t made the film which will define her and allow her to reach her full potential.