The Souvenir – Film Review
Director: Joanna Hogg
Writer: Joanna Hogg (screenplay)
Stars: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, Tom Burke, Tosin Cole, Jack McMullen
Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an aspiring filmmaker. She dreams of making a film about the decaying city of Sunderland and tells all who will listen. She is from a wealthy background and lives an affluent lifestyle paid for by her parents. She meets Anthony (Tom Burke) at a party. On the face of things he is her perfect man. He’s sophisticated, humorous and has a good job working in the Home Office. As she starts to fall in love with him, she realises that all is not as it seems.
This film will probably be remembered as the one that introduced Honor Swinton Byrne to the world. She is the daughter of Tilda Swinton and her playwright husband John Byrne. Tilda also makes an appearance in this film, playing Julie’s mother Rosalind, and steals many scenes from her daughter as the windswept frightfully upper-class lady.
The director of the film is Joanna Hogg, who has worked in the industry for many years without ever making any serious waves. Her back catalogue of work includes episodes of Casualty and even the EastEnders based TV film, Dot’s Story! The film is semi-autobiographical and is an impressive piece, no matter where it falls in her career.
Another unusual thing about this film is that there’s already a sequel planned which will pick up immediately after this film. It is rare for art house films to have a sequel, but if Hogg continues to write from a semi-autobiographical viewpoint, then it is no real surprise. Robert Pattinson was the star name attached to this sequel but he has seemingly already dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.
The film has a documentary feel to it, with hand-held camera (at times) and a drip-feed of information that forces the viewer to pay attention. It’s never clear just how damaged Anthony is or why Julie chooses to stick with him and it will leave the audience speculating on their relationship. The setting for the film is London in the early 80s and it is evoked impressively, with a great soundtrack and many small touches. The biggest complaint you could make about this film is that it is quite slow, but it has many other merits, as it is beautifully acted and gives an interesting insight into the upper echelons of English society. It will also be interesting to see the rest of Honor’s career, where she will no doubt play ice-queens and cruel mothers, much as Tilda has done for the last twenty years!