The Souvenir Part II – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Jaygann Ayeh, Richard Ayoade, Ariane Labed, James Spencer Ashworth, Tilda Swinton
In cinemas now
This sequel to Hoggs highly acclaimed 2019 movie The Souvenir picks up pretty much where that left off and events of that movie very much drive this, so it is definitely advantageous if you are familiar with it. I won’t rehash the details of that plot here but if you don’t want to watch it a quick google search should give you a synopsis to bring you up to speed.
These movies are autobiographical in nature, dealing with Hogg’s personal experience and as such, she is invested in the material, much like the lead character here, film student Julie (Swinton Byrne reprising her role). Recovering from the harrowing experience of her relationship with the now deceased Tom she spends much of this movie trying to process her feelings and realising that she didn’t really know him at all. She visits his parents as well as some of his less salubrious friends. However, she eventually decides that the best way to deal with her grief is to put it on screen as her film school final project. The powers that be at her college are not impressed but Julie stands her ground and finds herself overdirecting her actors with this deeply personal material.
Unlike Julie, Hogg doesn’t over direct and allows all her actors’ room to breathe. The performances are all naturalistic and almost primal. Her visual style, which usually involves using a static camera and allowing the movement to come from the people in frame as they move in and out of shot, can be somewhat jarring in its simplicity and adds to the intensity of the story. It also seems reflective of the way Julie’s brain works. Ideas move in and out of focus as she tries to process what’s going on.
She also manages to have many very clever pops at the conceits of the industry in which she works. You will notice these more if you have seen part one, but they should still garner a knowing smile even if you haven’t.
This is an interesting insight into how grief and loss inform art. It does end on a high note for the character but you get the feeling that this could change at any point further down the line.
This won’t be flashy enough for some cinema-goers but it is a wonderfully thoughtful and poignant movie. It is the kind of movie that lingers and forces you to reflect. This feels like the completion of this part of Julie’s story but since it is based on Hogg’s own experience who knows, we may well yet get a part three.