Joanna Hogg’s delicate, formally rigorous and quietly engrossing film The Souvenir was, in parallel, a tender coming-of-age story, cautionary tale of an obsessive relationship, captivating portrayal of a film student and budding artist trying to find her voice, and a surprisingly sharp depiction of class politics too. However, it was especially memorable for being an intimate film à clef, given that Hogg based it heavily on her own life, experiences and memories from her younger days. Her alter-ego is Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a young, fragile and shy film school student in 1980s London who, in striking contrast to her bourgeois background and upbringing – her wealthy parents (Byrne’s real-life mom Tilda Swinton, interestingly, played her reel-life mother here) reside in a luxurious mansion in the countryside, and sponsor her flat and expenses – is planning to make a social realist student film on the life of a struggling shipyard’s working class labourers. Her naïve and unhurried existence, however, faces its first massive emotional jolt when she gets sucked into a self-destructive affair – even to the detriment of her sanity and personal well-being – with a mysterious, rakish, dour-faced older man (Tom Burke) allegedly employed with the Foreign Office, and with a striking resemblance to Peter Lorre. Not only are his life and profession shrouded in secrecy – he claims to be involved in the British government’s crackdown of the IRA during this turbulent period – it soon becomes clear that he’s also an addict. Byrne gave a wonderfully affecting turn, while the softly textured photography and the well-chosen diagetic music gave the movie – a sequel to which is currently under production – a distinctly moody here-and-now feel while still preserving a remarkably unsentimental tone.
Director: Joanna Hogg
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Film a Clef