Film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is a young woman like no other. “Very special”, as articulated by her new-found acquaintance and mentor, Anthony (Tom Burke), the shy English rose begins to emerge from her shell and, before long, a courtship is developed between them, stirring the pair into a passionate and turbulent relationship that tests the powers of love, sanity and time.
A richly autobiographical drama, based on director Joanna Hogg’s own personal experiences growing up in the early 1980s against the backdrop of London’s cultural renaissance, The Souvenir is a deeply moving and beautifully written portrait about the naivety and wholeheartedness of first love. Tender, yet tragic, Julie’s attachment to Anthony sees her face lies, theft, and drug abuse, but so smitten is she that the youngster is unable to walk away.
The detail is in the dialogue. Hogg captures the push-pull factor of Julie’s and Anthony’s exceptional bond so delicately, particularly during their first pre-romantic room encounter, where the couple attempts to maintain their boundaries by creating an imaginary line that neither is allowed to cross, despite underlying tensions between them. One cannot help but feel profound compassion for and investment in the duo as characters, despite the horrifying trajectory that Anthony’s road is about to take. His heroin addiction is unfortunate, and one that cements the lovers’ fate, but its presence serves a huge symbolic purpose – it is the physical representation of the toxicity and addictiveness of their own relationship, something that both seem blissfully unaware of until things get out of control.
The Souvenir is an incredibly special film, one where every single word, look, pause and gesture is fraught with purpose and meaning. Ebbing and flowing from the contemporary to the classical, the set has the actors conversing in Julie’s chic apartment complex one minute, only to have them flitter in space to a period setting the next, which could easily emulate that of a Jane Austen fairytale. This film is a timeless delight from an exceptionally gifted storyteller.
The Souvenir is released in select cinemas and on digital release on 30th August 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Souvenir here: