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Sad, determined, and brilliant

The Souvenir is as perfect a film as they come
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Review

The Souvenir

Stars: 5.0

Written and Directed by Joanna Hogg

Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Richard Ayoade, Jaygann Ayeh, Jack McMullen, Hannah Ashby Ward, and Tilda Swinton

Runtime: 119 minutes

Rated: 14A for nudity, coarse language, and substance abuse

Playing July 5-11 at Metro Cinema, 8712 109 St., Edmonton. More details can be found at metrocinema.org.

 

If you’re a cinephile or someone who just really likes and appreciates watching good movies about the human condition, here’s something for you. Catch the name Joanna Hogg and don’t drop it. That name will soon be prominent for the awards and accolades associated with it, or at least it will be if the universe works as it should. The British filmmaker has a CV with several television programs to her credit and a handful of feature films as well, but it’s really one title – her latest – that should firmly and decidedly put her name on the A list:

The Souvenir.

In many ways, it’s as gripping and suspenseful as The Silence of the Lambs: dark and as morbidly un-turn-away-able, dragging the viewer unrelentingly to the inevitable harrowing conclusion. Granted, there’s far less kidnapping and cannibalism in this film… or is there? Our protagonist is still a young and ambitious woman who must deal with a sociopathic male who can hide his truer, darker nature beneath the veneer of someone cultured and intelligent. Being in a toxic relationship (as is depicted here) can be a form of hijacking, a way of losing your life.

It’s easy to make the comparison between these two vastly different pieces. In both, a good, innocent person is swept away and subverted by the vile, perverted one but the plot is redeemed only when the innocent overcomes the tormentor, saving herself and likely others from the same fate, or worse.

The Souvenir features Honor Swinton Byrne as Julie, a young film student with aspirations to make a name for herself with new cinematic ideas. At the same time, she becomes involved in a relationship with Anthony (Tom Burke). While she strives to build herself up, other forces come into play that seek to undermine every foundation that she builds. The conversation between them might be intellectual at times but there’s something about how casually he puts her down that seems to hint at further rot in his character. We find out what that is soon enough but not before substantial damage is done to the relationship and her trust itself.

Also, and in much the same way, these films succeed when the villain is charismatic, mesmerizing even. Burke fulfills that obligation easily but Swinton Byrne takes the lion’s share of the heavy lifting in this piece and deserves full credit. Remember Joanna Hogg’s name? Now add this lead actor and you’re starting to realize the talented heavyweights who are being unveiled to the world in this one film. The Souvenir is as perfect a film as they come: perfectly cast, perfectly written, and perfectly realized.

As an end note, this film is so well done that a sequel is already in production. How many serious relationship dramas can that be said for?




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