Film reviews: Brutal and unflinching revenge thriller

You Were Never Really Here, picture PA.
You Were Never Really Here, picture PA.

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (15)

Based on Jonathan Ames’ novella of the same title, You Were Never Really Here is a brutal and unflinching revenge thriller, which allows writer-director Lynne Ramsay to plumb the murky depths of the human condition on the mean streets of modern-day New York.

She conjures a nightmarish vision of exploitation and degradation behind closed doors that has us biting our nails down to the cuticles, seen through the eyes of a traumatised war veteran (Joaquin Phoenix), who is hired to rescue a teenage girl (Ekaterina Samsonov) from sex slavery.

It is a masterclass in tightly coiled suspense. Phoenix delivers a fearless and, at times, heartbreaking performance as a broken man, whose quest for redemption seems to be leading him down the road to hell.

Ramsay captures her protagonist’s nightmarish and woozy odyssey in a clinical, unfussy manner that sends trickles of cold sweat down the spine.

MOM AND DAD (15)

Nuclear families go into meltdown in writer-director Brian Taylor’s deranged horror comedy, which conceives a sick and twisted battle of wits between two children (Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur) and their blood-crazed parents (Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair).

Retro opening titles accompanied by Dusty Springfield’s rendition of Yesterday When I Was Young perfectly set the scene for wanton carnage in leafy suburbia.

Mom And Dad is an entertaining and loopy satire on modern family values, which allows Cage to play unhinged at maximum volume. Horror fans will delight at generous splashes of gore including one icky scene with a coat hanger.

Writer-director Taylor’s penchant for flashbacks dissipates dramatic tension at critical moments but at 86 minutes, his film doesn’t outstay its welcome.