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CANNES 2021 Directors’ Fortnight

Review: The Souvenir: Part II

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- CANNES 2021: In the second part of Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical tale, Honor Swinton Byrne’s Julie comes of age and dons a pair of fabulous silver trousers

Review: The Souvenir: Part II
Honor Swinton Byrne in The Souvenir: Part II

Picking up where 2019’s The Souvenir [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
left off, after the tragic death of Julie’s (Honor Swinton Byrne) boyfriend, the man she loved and apparently knew nothing about (something that’s not that unusual, if one’s being completely honest), The Souvenir: Part II [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
feels lighter, somehow. If the first part of Joanna Hogg’s story, inspired by her own experience and already very good, was about broken trust, then this one, screening in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is about grief. About what it takes to get over someone and their deception, in order to really move on.

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Julie, a sweet if somewhat annoying character the first time around, seems less passive – almost as if the absence of the much louder, extroverted Anthony has given her the space she needed. She dresses differently, too, with silver trousers replacing preppy cardigans, and slowly starts to look for closeness with other people – leading to a sex scene that, irritatingly enough, provoked some gasps at Cannes, as if no woman was ever allowed to be on her period. The encounters aren’t too serious, though, as Hogg doesn’t care for replacing one love story with another. Or maybe she does, but what ultimately manages to make Julie happy is certainly not a man.

It’s actually work: filmmaking and the whole creative process, the whole shebang, even though her methods and ideas are not appreciated by teachers at film school and certainly not by the bullish crew members working on her graduation film. Interestingly, her mother (Tilda Swinton) also gets to create this time, taking up pottery and beaming with pride when presenting her clumsy first effort. But Julie’s spontaneity and soft-spoken directions – and, one suspects, her privileged background, as it’s still her mum who is payrolling the film – are viewed as a weakness in an environment that’s more used to the yells of an in-house wannabe genius played by Richard “you are forcing me to have a tantrum” Ayoade. Who gets all the best lines, by the way, and makes “drizzling” sound like the single most disgusting word ever uttered.

There is something very young about The Souvenir: Part II, a delightful, considerate effort, and not just because of all those wonderfully pretentious students running around. It feels more colourful, too, with bright lips and broader shoulders entering onto the scene, which was previously filled with a safe beige. Once Julie decides to make a film about what she went through, she needs to answer questions about herself: how could she have trusted Anthony, believed him, loved him – or was she just blind? But as she finds her way through to addressing that, and then some, making cinema that invokes fantasy and moves away from the kitchen sink, it’s almost as if Hogg was giving herself a small pat on the back, too. And justly so.

Written by Hogg, The Souvenir: Part II was produced by the UK’s BBC Films, Protagonist Pictures and JWH Films, the USA’s Sikelia Productions, and Ireland’s Element Pictures. Its sales are handled by Protagonist Pictures.

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