‘You Were Never Really Here’: Deconstructing a Traditional Masculine Hero

On the surface, you’ve definitely seen stories similar to You Were Never Really Here before. It follows Joe, an ex-veteran/FBI agent turned vigilante hero. His stoic masculine character trope has been explored in genre thrillers of this kind, such as Drive and most comparatively to Taxi Driver. The former a tired, male fantasy with regressive messages of masculinity and chivalric romance, the latter being an interesting study of masculinity, the main character played by De Niro going on a path to self-destruction to cope with his isolation. These movies both show a celebratory and a critical side to a masculine hero, perspectives both painted by white male directors.

What makes You Were Never Really Here a valuable addition to this canon of masculine genre thrillers, is that it becomes a character study to reveal a new kind of masculinity offered by a female director (Lynne Ramsay) that these previously mentioned films do not offer. But rather than showing a toxic male character on screen and showing his path of destruction like Scorsese did, Ramsay shows a new kind of masculine character under her own perspective. Portrayed with a career best performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joe is a unique character to this genre because while he rescues girls sold off in human trafficking through methods of violence, but he doesn’t revel or indulge in violence. Joe suffers with a life of trauma and seeks heroism to cope with his psychological wounds, and learns what greater responsibility means through his experiences.

SPOILER WARNING

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