Bavo Defurne’s light, whippy musical comedy sees the iconic Isabelle Huppert in a role quite unlike her usual ones. Fading starlet Lilliane (Huppert), once famous as a Eurovision finalist, now lives a life of monotony working in a pâté factory alongside her youthful counterpart Jean (Kévin Azaïs), an aspiring boxer who seeks to rekindle her long-forgotten career.
It is a relatively pastel plot, but this does not put a stopper on Defurne’s ability to enchant the viewer with a blossoming yet unassuming romance. It is the very nature of Lilliane and Jean’s love affair that gives Souvenir a certain stature. Their relationship is never made a spectacle nor does it formulate and control the movie’s dynamic; rather, it supports a narrative that serves Huppert’s character the limelight. Where Jean may be more overtly eager to restart Lilliane’s career, it is her emotional struggle of dealing with newfound fame that is the focus.
Both Huppert and Azaïs carry the film with their poignant performances: Huppert as the alcoholic washout besieged by her catastrophic romance with ex-lover Tony (Johan Leysen), and Jean as her peppy counterpart, blindsided by her talent and beauty. Through each other, both Jean and Lilliane rediscover not only themselves, but also their passion for life and for the future.
The editing is a little jumpy in parts with quick cut scenes that jar the narrative, yet the opening credits are a masterful attempt at wit, carrying the theme of the movie from the offset. What appears to be champagne bubbles turns out in fact to be a hangover cure, which Lilliane sips as she stares blankly at her haggard appearance. From then on, the film lacks any sense of cinematic style that makes it noteworthy, and with such a sparse plot, this should have required a bit more attention.
Delightfully fluffy and wonderfully charming, Souvenir is one to see if not for Huppert’s performance alone.
Souvenir is released nationwide on 23rd June 2017.
Watch the trailer for Souvenir here: