The Souvenir: Part II
Joanna Hogg follows up her semi-autobiographical The Souvenir with a sequel, following film student Julie as she grapples with her artistic ambitions
One issue with Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical The Souvenir was that Tom Burke’s performance as Anthony, a suave heroin addict, threatened to overshadow the much quieter turn by Honor Swinton Byrne as Julie, a young, privileged film student, as his substance abuse poisoned their love. It’s an issue that’s been remedied with the follow-up, as Hogg delves into what drives Julie as she reels from the loss of her abusive partner and creates a short film as a memorial to him.
Hogg’s precise framing, immaculate sound design and largely improvised (but never aimless) dialogue are all back in spades, along with brilliantly observed supporting characters in Julie’s parents (including Swinton Byrne's real-life mother, Tilda Swinton) and a difficult director (Richard Ayoade), but the film sings when Julie is centrestage and creating. While a filmmaker making another film about their artistic formation may come across as indulgent, Hogg works into Part II a self-aware acknowledgement of the difficulties of creatively articulating deeply personal experiences. Julie is not an effortless director; she’s inexperienced and indecisive, and her crew often struggle to understand her vision or why she behaved the way she did with Anthony.
One problem comes in there being a few too many instances where people explain Julie’s psychology, especially since the scenes on Julie's film set are so illuminating on their own. But after a slow start, The Souvenir: Part II becomes an absorbing and quietly heartbreaking portrait of a young artist, and of the dichotomy of truth and artifice that exists in all art.
The Souvenir: Part II had its UK premiere at London Film Festival and is released in the UK on 21 Jan 2021 by Picturehouse