Friday, May 4, 2018

You Were Never Really Here: Jonny Greenwood’s Character Study of a Score

By Kate Rowland

“They said you were brutal,”
“I can be.”

        Coming straight off from his scoring work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, prolific composer, and Radiohead member, Jonny Greenwood crafts what might just be his best work to date. Lynne Ramsay's You Were Never Really Here follows the story of former FBI agent and combat man, Joe, who is working his current job as a hired retriever of kidnapped children. He is harsh, brutal, relentless, built by trauma from his very foundation, carrying layers of internal and external scars. But Joe is not a man completely devoid of humanity either, and so You Were Never Really Here becomes a film that is just as much about violence, men, and power as it is about love, duty, and compassion.
        Greenwood’s score responds with remarkable understanding of the juxtaposition that Joe’s story presents. It can be as cold as Joe’s dead eyed glare, and as tender as a moment of embrace between Joe and the dying man he had just dispatched with a bullet to the gut. Nowhere has Jonny Greenwood’s music been so intune with the mind of his subject most likely since his other collaborative work with Paul Thomas Anderson on There Will Be Blood. His obsessive guitar strums and percussive beats augmenting Joe’s restlessness, which transitions into pangs of dissonance to reflect upon Joe’s dissociative tendencies. Haunted by violence and trauma, he barely sees himself as whole, and so Greenwood abstains from creating pieces that ever feel connected or whole. With relentless slashing and sawing motions, he channels Joe’s brutal nature, and the dull ache of self-loathing. One might even be able to watch You Were Never Really Here as a silent film, and still have the same visceral emotions evoked throughout just the music and cinematography alone. It certainly is a feat for Jonny Greenwood to create a score that perfectly matches the alternate realities of Lynne Ramsay’s psychological thriller, and for his work to be just as diverse as our main character. Hopeful that this will finally be the movie that allows for Jonny Greenwood to receive his long overdue Oscar.

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