GLASGOW-BORN film maker Lynne Ramsay is bringing her new offering You Were Never Really Here to audiences at the Glasgow Film Festival.
The film, which will be released in the UK on March 9, is a brutal noir thriller following Joe (Joaquin Phoenix), a traumatised former soldier who now works as hired muscle , specialising in tracking down girls who have been targeted by sex traffickers.
It’s a dark, murky tale which seems at once to have a detached, nightmarish quality while also having a sense of heightened reality – you can almost smell the busy streets of New York and wring the sopping wet towels in Joe’s bathroom.
Joaquin’s Joe is a man of few words, capable of calm, efficient and breath-taking acts of violence.
The film is peppered with uncomfortable, jarring moments which lay bare Joe’s physical and emotional scarring, made all the more unbearable by an incredible score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.
It’s an astonishing performance and comes from a place of trust and respect between actor and director.
Surprisingly, the pair hadn’t even met face-to-face before they dove into shooting the film together.
Lynne said: “It was the first time he had worked with a director he hadn’t met and I had worked with an actor I hadn’t met.
“We spoke on the phone before and he joked that he only understood about half of what I was saying.
“He came onto the project so early which was quite scary because I didn’t have much time to prep.
“It was a crazy, hot summer making the film. It had a special kind of energy.
“It was exhilarating really, we were working by the skin of our teeth. He’s [Phoenix] got really strong instincts and so do I, we both know if something feels wrong.
“We’re like kindred spirits in a way.”
You Were Never Really Here had its official debut last year at Cannes, and despite it not being completely finished, it received a six-minute standing ovation.
“We had to get them to stop clapping because we were getting embarrassed.
“I felt like a bit of a wally”, laughed Lynne.
“It’s better than any prizes though, to get a reaction like that.
“I still get nervous before a screening. I still get nervous before every shoot, too. I think that’s a good thing, though, it keeps you on your toes.
“I think because this is my home-crowd, that maybe makes it even more nerve-wracking.”
Lynne, who has just moved back to Glasgow, joked the city screening ‘would just be full of my family’.
For the spine-tingling music, Lynne knew she wanted Jonny Greenwood, who also scored her critically-acclaimed previous work We Need To Talk About Kevin.
She said: “I was trying to reel him in, sending him five minute, ten minute, fifteen minute clips of the film.
“What he came back with blew my mind. The score is just like a character. Its like Joe, you don’t know what it’s going to do next.”
Although the film is dizzylingly violent and tackles bleak subject matter, the dialogue fizzes with black humour.
Lynne said: “Joaquin has that gallows humour, he’s like an honorary Glaswegian.”
“There’s that sort of humour that Northern Europe definitely gets, you know – laughing at the tragedy of life.”
One scene is particular – a long, drawn out death scene – gets a blackly comedic spin so dark you’ll shock yourself by laughing at it.
Lynne: “We just wanted to defy cliches – rather than the character just getting shot and that being it – we said what happen if it was a long, drawn out, protracted affair?
“People say can I laugh? Am I meant to laugh? Of course you can.”
The haunting film is given a beating heart by Joe’s relationship with his mother – played wryly by Judith Roberts, who has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the National Film Awards.
Lynne said: “That relationship – the humanity and the humour – underpins the film.
“Joaquin and Judith were just riffing off each other, they had a lot of fun.
“Judith’s at that point in life – she’s 80 and she’s just having a hoot.”
Having relocated back to her native Scotland, Lynne said she’s interested in setting a future project in Glasgow.
“It’s so different here now. I left when I was 17.
“It’s got an arty, cultural vibe, like a non-gentrified New York. I’d love to film something here. I’ve got some ideas.”
You Were Never Really Here goes on general release in the UK on March 9.
For more info about the Glasgow Film Festival, head to their website.