69th Berlinale | 2019
"This gullibility is irksome and one tends to feel a lot of frustration towards Julie. But then things change and Anthony leaves providing Julie with a great opportunity to focus on school, she takes a lover and her life begins to rise."
Dir. Joanna Hogg
It is undeniable that The Souvenir is a beautifully made film and director Joanna Hogg has made one of her most personal film to yet. However once I left the screening at the Berlinale I felt a little uneasy and I, like a few people, had many questions that neither got answered within the first part of the film or during the Q&A afterwards.
When a filmmaker makes such a personal film as this it tends to be a film that will delight most festival audiences but perhaps lacks that connection with a general cinema audience. Putting ones heart out there is difficult and it is clear that what Hogg’s made is a film that is trying to provide her with a sense of closure. This period in the then aspiring young filmmakers early life was traumatic but we never really get down to the any sense of why.
In The Souvenir Honor Swinton Byrne, Julie, daughter of Tilda Swinton who plays Julie’s mother Rosalind. The charm and wide-eyedness of Byrne gives a real sense of authenticity to the character and there is no other way you could have made this character as believable. Through each of Byrne’s scenes you feel all the emotion, conflict and uncertainty.
Based in the 1980s one cannot help but feel as a voyeur who isn’t really seeing or understanding much. There becomes a chasm created as we get sucked into this very upperclass lifestyle of Julie. A film student who is struggling with her studies and money living in a duplex apartment in Knightsbridge a stones-throw away from Harrods is not the most relatable of characters.
"A film student who is struggling with her studies and money living in a duplex apartment in Knightsbridge a stones-throw away from Harrods is not the most relatable of characters."
We see that there is a lot of love and understanding from Julie’s mother and this leads up to wonder why she allows someone like Anthony, Tom Burke, into her life. Julie is completely blinded by him but the ‘self destruction’ that is infused in their relationship is shared equally between them. This isn’t just about someone having a ‘blind spot’ for love, Julie seems to know just how bad an influence and person Anthony is but she doesn’t break free from him.
During a dinner part with some friends Patrick, Richard Ayoade, informs her that Anthony is doing drugs and it comes across to Julie as such a surprise. When it is blatantly obvious from the rows in the flat, the fights, him breaking things and Julie driving him to a rough part of London so he can buy drugs.
This gullibility is irksome and one tends to feel a lot of frustration towards Julie. But then things change and Anthony leaves providing Julie with a great opportunity to focus on school, she takes a lover and her life begins to rise.
Any yet out of the blue Anthony, like a nasty smell that just will not go away, saunters back into her life. As they sit in a rather splendidly over the top restaurant it is Julie who makes the first moves to Anthony, she stokes his hand and begins to fawn for him.
The Souvenir is a film that stands out. It is beautifully made and there is an incredible sense of authenticity but it is not a film that connects well and leaves you with more questions that may get answered in Part 2.