Arthouse Cinema & ‘You Were Never Really Here’

Thoughts on the 2017 film by Lynne Ramsay

I have often thought about what makes a film an arthouse flick and what doesn’t. Haven’t found an answer to that yet, but I feel like I’ve scratched the surface of a possible solution with Lynne Ramsay’s, ‘You Were Never Really Here’.

The film falls in the crime, drama, mystery genre (straight out of IMDb). If I told you the events that occur in the film you might even think that it seems like a classic commercial crime, drama, mystery movie. So what makes it different?

There’s something that everyday action blockbusters do which takes all the realism out of it. The basic design of the characters in these films evades real questions. Most of the leads have had a host of the most dismaying experiences that one can have in a lifetime. However, there is no considerable effect of this in their general being, they have negligible mental trauma from all those experiences and somehow they all have an impeccable sense of humour.

‘You Were Never Really Here’ puts the plot in the backseat. Every single event is from the lead character’s perspective. His past experiences, his present situation and his profession all have a footprint on his demeanour and it’s clearly laid out in the screenplay. You can’t tell what he’s going to do next because the character definition is amazingly intricate and yet when he does something this same definition is a firm justification for it. The character defines the film, just like we define our lives.

But once you take a perceptive screenplay and combine it with a Jonny Greenwood soundtrack followed by an official selection at Cannes you officially become arthouse. You lose the patience of the audience and risk making a niche film, potentially lacking monetary reimbursement.

Let me make this substandard delineation of my thoughts worse by posing a question which, ironically, will have an explanation before it. Google lists the meaning of arthouse as “a cinema which specialises in showing films that are artistic or experimental rather than merely entertaining.” When did artistic work become a pigeonhole in art itself? And when did it stop entertaining?

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