The Souvenir - Review
by Rafaela Sales
Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an aspiring filmmaker hungry for a deeper understanding of the world and its maladies. Fighting against telling her own story onscreen, she dives into the fictional tale of a working-class boy obsessed with his mother in a film that takes place in Sutherland, the striking opposite of her Harrods-facing Knightsbridge flat. The young woman is hyper-aware of the bubble she was raised in, one she desperately tries to break from, while still making the most of her entitled life by hosting house parties and having expensive dinners on some of the most prestigious places in London
The journey of the protagonist is suddenly shaken by the arrival of Anthony, an older man whose previous military career and current Foreign Office position grant him a worldly aura that easily draws Julie in. Their fresh romance unravels at the fast pace of a first love and soon Julie is saying goodbye to her flatmates and welcoming her beloved in. Anthony arrogantly talks her down, sending Julie into a spiral of self-doubt she struggles to escape from. Their toxic relationship exposes inexperienced Julie to a myriad of painful feelings her favoured life had sheltered her from. Both the apartment and Julie are rapidly submitted to the wreckage of Anthony’s unpredictable behaviour, scarred by the growing tension in their relationship
Julie is at the same time torn and intoxicated by Anthony, who provides her with an alternative way of life she was so desperately seeking for. He takes her on afternoon strolls around the Wallace Collection, an impromptu trip to Venice and introduces her to his equally arrogant friends, whose perspective on filmmaking and art in general effortlessly capture her attention. It is during a dinner party hosted by the new couple that Julie is finally confronted with the bleak truth about her beau, one hard to digest by her yet uncorrupted psyche.
The natural chemistry between newcomer Swinton Byrne and Tom Burke is highlighted by writer/director Joanna Hogg’s intimate portrait of her characters, one that is even more meaningful due to the autobiographical tone of the feature. In The Souvenir, the director beautifully builds a coming of age tale of womanhood and class, one that bitterly exposes a reality that we all face, regardless of our background: pain knows no privilege.