Good Acting Debut;
Slow, Boring And Pretentious;
Its Strengths Are Squandered.
Sometimes, you can watch a trailer and know the film is made for cinephiles and critics as opposed to normal moviegoers. There is nothing wrong with that, as I am both a cinephile and something of a critic, but man oh man did this miss the mark for me in a big way.
Joanna Hogg and A2 teamed up for this project (and its sequel, which I will be skipping, is announced during the credits) and I was pretty excited for it as I have yet to see an A24 film I didn’t like. Most, in fact, resonate greatly with me. Despite my initial zest, The Souvenir is such a plodding, disjointed affair that tries so hard to be “arty” that its message is utterly lost. If you read the reviews, the scores are very high, but audience scores are dismal and I can see why. It’s a coming-of-age tale lamenting a tumultuous relationship where the partner, Anthony (played by Tom Burke), is so utterly unlikeable and unsympathetic on every level that it’s too hard to buy into anyone liking him, let alone loving him and going through these struggles alongside him.
The unfortunate part is that it has some really strong points, but they are all wasted on the overall product. Hogg’s direction is bold and confident, and the cinematography shines as many of the frames are meticulously composed. Newcomer Honor Swinton Byrne is very good in her debut and is easily the strongest part of the film. She emotes well and fully understands her character. But even those strong suits can’t save the film, as it doesn’t translate into anything enjoyable to watch. There were some shots and “scenes” (if you can call them such, because most of the film plays like a random collection of memories rather than anything resembling a plot) that stood out and I could appreciate a lot of individual things being presented, but overall I simply couldn’t wait for the credits to roll and the positives I mentioned were the only thing saving this from a lower grade.
A souvenir is something meant to remind you of a person, place or memory. In this case, I’d like to forget.
The Souvenir is Written and Directed By Joanna Hogg
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