The Souvenir

First Hit: A languid slow-paced film that bordered on torturous to watch.

This is either a good film about how a bad relationship can screw up your life, or it’s a bad film about how long the audience can watch someone live with their poor choices.

After seeing this film, I decided to peek at what some other reviewers said about this film. I’m surprised at how many reviewers liked this film when, while watching it, I wanted to get up and leave at least three times.

I believe I understood the point of the film; when someone is in love, that love can seep into, and drastically affect, every part of their life. My issue is why did this supposedly smart woman stay with this drug-laden man.

Here we have Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a budding young filmmaker, being allowed to become a student in a prestigious film school. The scenes during class sessions are mostly long and uninformative, unlike the underlying philosophy espoused by the instructors. This film wouldn’t have passed the instructor’s criteria.

At one point after Julie explains her film’s subject, the interviewers state that it is usually better to make a film about topics the director has some experience and knowledge about. It’s obvious Julie knew little or nothing about her subject of a boy losing a parent they love.

Julie’s family is wealthy. Her mom Rosalind (Tilda Swinton) and father live life well on a large English country estate. But the scenes where Julie asks for money are incredibly disheartening and remind me of someone entitled and never really having worked for a living.

Julie meets an older man, Anthony (Tom Burke), who is supposed to be a diplomat, but we never really know for whom or what. He doesn’t want to be questioned about anything. This set-up allows him far too much freedom to not share where he goes and what he’s doing. The reality is that he’s addicted to heroin and when he’s out he out scoring drugs.

Although he’s always dressed nicely, he never pays for anything, and watching Julie ever reaching for her purse made me ill. His arrogance and air of superiority were not attractive, and I don’t know what Julie saw in him. These scenes were often followed up by another plea, by Julie, for money from her mom. When he robs Julie’s apartment, the act was only believable from an addicts point of view. Her response was almost benign.

I never saw or felt much chemistry between Julie and Anthony and saw no reason for them being together, except he needed her money to pay for his habit. Just like when two of her film friends come over for dinner, and the man says to Julie when Anthony leaves the room; I don’t understand you two, how do you handle him being drugged all the time? Julie has no response and the shock on her face would make you believe she will pursue this with Anthony, but she doesn’t, she just goes along for the ride.

There are long scenes where nothing happens and no setup too long, languid scenes to gain insight into the characters, let alone the film. The multiple shots of the four trees with a voice-over worked once, but that’s it.

Byrne has an attractive and unusual look, like her mom, but her actions in this role seemed juxtaposed to what I sense to be an intelligent person. This is either poor acting or weak script and direction. Burke was an excellent addict, and his behavior of using his system of excuses was typical addict oriented. Swinton was superb as Julie’s mom. Being her real mom probably helped. Joanna Hogg wrote and directed this film.

Overall: Despite reviews saying that Joanna is in charge of her craft, I can only say this film was uninteresting and forgetful.