The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)

 
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What’s This All About

A film student starts a relationship with a monster from hell. She’s gonna try and see if it works out.

Irregular lovers

Our work colleague Romy—not her real name, but close—has been crying for several weeks because her boyfriend dumped her. She still misses him even though he accused her of behaving like a slut and one time, after they broke up, informed her via WhatsApp that he was going to sleep with another woman. Even though we told Romy plenty of times to move on and get over that awful douchebag, she nevertheless hopes they’re getting back together. She says it’s hard to forget someone you once loved so much and still clings to the image of her ex when they first met and everything was terrific.

Apparently, love not only makes us blind, but it also makes us completely stupid.

Joanna Hogg explores in The Souvenir the contradictory nature of toxic relationships as she follows the tumultuous affair between Anthony and Julie, two upper-class intellectuals who can’t work as a couple because one of them is a smug, hostile liar who can’t stand being called a bedbug. Anthony is the abuser who hardly acknowledges he’s part of the problem so Julie is the one who takes all the blame instead. Anthony is so cultured and manipulative that when he (spoilers) steals from her, she’s the one who ends up apologising for making a scene.

Oh, no, Julie, dump the motherf*cker already.

“Is She Really Going Out With Him?” Joe Jackson asks in a song that unsubtly plays in the background at the beginning of the film. And viewers, indeed, ask themselves how such an endearing and talented young woman wastes her time with such a snob, undermining, heroin-addict scumbag. Even though Anthony is portrayed as a bastard right from the start, the movie somehow condemns Julie as well for being so forgiving and ingenious. Considering that The Souvenir is based on Joanna Hogg’s personal experiences, the movie feels more like a self-criticism. “How could I be so naïve?” is what Hogg seems to be asking, but, Joanna, please, don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s really hard to be sensible and logical when you’re that young and in love.

Despite dealing with a subject matter that’s frequently handled in an exploitative way, Joanna Hogg directs The Souvenir with finesse and good taste because there’s also abuse and toxicity in the bourgeoisie.

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Spoiler Area

Bye, bye, Anthony, rest in peace. 

Just like in Terence Davies’s masterpiece Distant Voices, Still Lives, sometimes someone’s death is the best thing that could ever happen to you. Towards the end, though, you feel like Julie hasn’t learned a thing and she survived the outcomes of this awful relationship because her lover didn’t.

The Moment

“You’ve got a foot on that side. And I’m literally on a ledge. I’ve got nowhere left to go”. Anthony and Julie discussing about who’s taking more space in bed and then dividing it in half with stuffed animals must be the sweetest moment between these two in the whole picture. And because we all know the worst part of a relationship is sharing a bed.

The Quote

Stop torturing yourself. Stop inviting me to torture you.

Number One Rule of A Guide to Becoming the Perfect Abuser.

Honor Swinton Byrne’s bleurgh, though, is a fantastic response.

Recommended for

Dumped lovers who can’t see that breaking-up was the best thing it could happen to them.

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Good Companion Pieces

  • The Souvenir (2019) > Unrelated (2007) > Archipelago (2010) > Exhibition (2013)

Why Am I Watching This?

  • Joanna Hogg

  • Tilda and Honor

MVP (cast)

Who cares if it’s a case of blatant nepotism, we’re talking about Tilda Swinton’s daughter here. Of course she was going to give an amazing performance. Of course she was going to make Julie such a warm, endearing character. 

MVP (crew)

The movie’s set in the 80s, but Grace Snell’s lush costumes could easily belong to other periods, reinforcing The Souvenir as a timeless story.

For Your Consideration

Best Movie - Best Director: Joanna Hogg - Best Actress: Honor Swinton Byrne - Best Actor: Tom Burke - Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton - Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Role: Richard Aoyade - Best Original Screenplay: Joanna Hogg - Best Cinematography: David Raedeker - Best Editing: Helle le Fevre - Best Costume Design: Grace Snell - Best Production Design - Best Ensemble Cast