June 5, 2019

CINEMA | A Bad Romance – Joanna Hogg Keeps 'The Souvenir'

The Souvenir

British auteur Joanna Hogg reaches into her past for an absorbing drama about a posh, ambitious young film student who falls into an intensely emotional relationship with a troubled older man. Set sumptuously in early '80s London, The Souvenir is such an artfully piercing yet captivating story of doomed romance.

Stunning young actress Honor Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda Swinton (Hogg's old classmate and longtime collaborator) who also turns up as her doting mother, is sensational and magnetic as the privileged and highly naïve Julie. Enter Tom Burke as the mildly appealing yet confidently arrogant bureaucrat, Anthony, who more than believably seduces Julie with his charming indifference. Their fraught, tumultuous relationship is full of textbook untrustworthy acts and drama that unfolds like a horror film.

Filmed dreamily in fleeting shots of intimate locations and fixed camera positions, it's told acerbically through impressionistic vignettes (not unlike last year's Cold War or You Were Never Really There) filmed mostly on static sets. That removed theatrical quality lends to its specific, naturalistic sense of mood and style.

Hogg weaves young adulthood into both creative and romantic maturation so intimately into The Souvenir. As a dramatic personal memoir, it dispassionately remembers the romance for all its mundanity and ills in such cinematic fashion. How it plays with lies and memories is truly affecting.

The Souvenir is playing in limited release at select theatres including Fifth Avenue Cinemas.


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