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Movie ReviewsThe Souvenir – An Overly-Restrained Period Romance

Keith NoakesAugust 1, 201951/100
Starring
Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton
Writer
Joanna Hogg
Director
Joanna Hogg
Rating
14A (Canada), R (United States)
Running Time
119 minutes
Release Date
June 7th, 2019
Overall Score
Rating Summary
The Souvenir is undoubtedly a well-made film that may be beautiful to look at but its mess of a story, unlikable characters as well as a slow pace and low-energy delivery certainly won't be for everyone.

Over the course of our respective movie-going journeys, there comes certain films that are just not for us. They may mean well while having some sort of appeal for certain audiences but sometimes a connection just isn’t there. The Souvenir is an example of one of these films. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, suffice it to say that it will almost certainly not be for everyone. This also doesn’t mean that the film is all doom and gloom as the film certainly has plenty of redeeming qualities. It’s just a shame that they could have been assembled in a better way.

The Souvenir was about an aspiring young filmmaker in the early 1980s named Julie (Byrne) who is trying to devlop her first feature film while also falling in love with a mysterious man named Anthony (Burke). The biggest problem with the film was that its supposed selling point, which was the relationship between Julie and Anthony, simply does not work for a multitude of reasons that become harder and harder to ignore as the film goes on (surely leading some to stop caring altogether and tune out). The story is a mess and tough to follow, scenes are haphazardly edited, the character development is almost nonexistent, but most importantly, Julie and Anthony are simply unlikable characters.

What would start off interestingly enough with Julie only got worse once she met Anthony. Whatever was going on from there became increasingly frustrating to follow as the point behind all of it became less and less clear as Julie and Anthony’s complicated relationship played out on screen. The connection between Julie’s film and her relationship with Anthony was tenuous at best as The Souvenir seemed like it stopped being interested in the former. The film’s slow pace and low-energy delivery only made its mostly dialog-heavy story even worse and arduous to watch, especially with a near 2 hour running time.

If anything, at least The Souvenir was nice to look at. The beautiful cinematography and minimal camera movement (though it would annoyingly keep focusing on the same thing for just a little too long) were both quite something to behold but it’s just a shame that they couldn’t frame more compelling action on screen. The score on its own was solid, however, whenever it would show up, which was not often enough (to help the low-energy dialog), it would also occasionally distract from and/or overwhelm whatever was happening on screen (for whoever hasn’t already tuned out).

Despite all the questionable elements within The Souvenir, at least the acting was okay for the most part. Byrne and Burke were still somewhat compelling to watch as Julie and Anthony but it would have been nice for them to make us care about their characters a little more (though the writing, especially for the latter and direction did not do them any favors). They also lacked enough chemistry (which may have been the point story wise) to be a believable couple. Everything seemed a little too restrained too invest in on an emotional level. Meanwhile, Swinton was fine as Julie’s mother Rosalind.

At the end of the day, The Souvenir has still achieved some critical acclaim but keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily translate to all audiences. Fans of Hogg and/or those looking for a period romance-ish film may find enough here, however, set your expectations carefully.

*still courtesy of A24*


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