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"You Were Never Really Here," a review

In "You Were Never Really Here," we're ostensibly being given a film that is sensitive to all those who've experienced terrific traumatic experiences in their lives. We have a sense of fidelity to the traumatic experience, that this is a film which really cared to explore how it affects the mind/future behaviour, and so to perhaps be trusted as almost instructive for the rest of us. Watching this film, we become sensitive to how ostensibly fragmented the mental state of someone experiencing PTSD can be; how intrusive past-horrifying memories can be; how they can't be repressed, are always free-floating; how it regularly brings one to thoughts past that of sadomasochism towards self-extinction, as a means of total escape. 

Yet while the film leans us this way, towards seeing it as "awoke," a participant in our blossoming expansion of sensitivity and respect for others, what brought them to become the ostensibly less-than-pleasant people we see before us, we note that otherwise the film fits in with a lot of films we're seeing lately of simply gruff, somewhat discombobulated people -- for example, Logan (especially similar, in that the victimized girl seems actually "advantaged" by the whole experience, in becoming an alpha survivor), Logan Lucky, Big Short, Hell or High Water -- who remain incredibly good at heart, and which always posit other people in the film where any extended reach into understanding them empathically is completely denied: they're evil, actually TRULY ugly to look at, because they're arrogant, evil assh*oles. 

In this film it's aristocrats and pedophiles. For the film to be consistent in its purposes, it would have surely given us a glimse of how pedophilia ostensibly restores -- like a hit of opium -- the fragmented psyche of a pedophile, so we would understand that the PTSD "hero," Joe, in the film who ventured into drugs and criminality -- perhaps replay of a war setting, where he always conquers? -- to keep himself normalized, other trauma victims might have had to venture into other perversities. It might have argued that there's a link, that is, between the perversities we may even actually are well along the way to glorifying and ones that remain completely outside our current reach of empathic understanding. It might have argued that if we really are sincere in our effort to be awoke, then, yes, absolute interest in our hero and, yes, absolute involvement in how the film suggests a PTSD victim encounters simple day-to-day living as a constant effort to keep his/her psyche together -- something he also does by insisting on encounters with potentially aggravating people he loves, namely, his mom, where he times his comings and goings; where he's got the control -- but also an effort to make it seem logical that that same effort on our part ought to be extended to more genuinely surprising categories of people as well. (Can you imagine a moment where we're suddenly in the pedophile's head, with him experiencing a flashback to a memory of abuse that gets settled as he gets prepared for a pedophilic act with his -- as actually shown in the film, but only for purposes for setting him up as grotesque -- fussing with a dollhouse?)

The film so skirts on expanding understanding towards damaged people towards cementing virtue in people whose "damage" has already become a social signifier FOR their virtue, that it's insouciant in its applying what really are remarkable similarities between the hero and the villains, things like how they're both "involved" in stabbing mothers with knives (one pretends, the other actually executes), and how they're both obsessed with predatory acts done to kids (one, as him as a stranger giving sweets to kids, without expectations, the other in the standard predatory mode of that stereotype). (Yes, he and the dying hit-man have a moment, but it's done only when it's clear the hit-man serves to magnify our understanding of the extent of the rot and uncontested reach of higher powers, and of how hapless the state servant is to do other than comply -- when the hitman is just the average everyday man, powerless in a corrupt society.) Somehow it becomes easier and easier to imagine that what films like this are bringing us to is a situation where all of us imagine ourselves as banged up, as suffering from terrible hurts, but that we yet remain our country's last best hope, and that we need to collect ourselves together and combat the aristocratic perverse assh*oles that have made such easy sport of our country for far too long. That is, a conservative-populist, alt-right narrative of the world.


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