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« January. It's a Wrap | Main | "The Other Two" is Essential 2019 Television »
Friday
Feb012019

Sundance: Joanna Hogg's 'The Souvenir'

Murtada Elfadl reporting from Sundance

“Show don’t tell” is how Joanna Hogg directs The Souvenir. Hogg is the former photographer and experimental filmmaker behind Archipelago (2010), and Exhibition (2013). Those films made a splash on the European indie scene but not many waves on this side of the Atlantic. Here she withholds the narrative to only slowly reveals what her film is about. We first meet a young film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) in 1980s London, trying to make it in film school. Perhaps this is a character study somewhat based on Hogg’s own life? Only later do we discover that it’s about an intense all consuming co-dependent relationship between our lead and a sweet but drug-addicted snobbish man who works for the foreign office (Tom Burke)...

Hogg charts this relationship over a few years. At first I was engrossed, trying to figure out the story and revelling in Hogg’s masterful use of the whole frame. She finds the narrative beats in how she shoots the spaces between the characters. Swinton Byrne is excellent in her first ever screen credit, though it’s the type of low key character and performance that does not always linger much in memory since it’s so quiet. Burke gets the more conspicuous character and dramatic arc, and he rises to the occasion and delivers an agile perceptive portrayal of a man in decline. Tilda Swinton appears far too briefly to play her real life daughter ‘s screen mother.

The film is astute in its depiction of class, from the costuming of the characters, to how the screenplay captures the tenor of the dinner conversations about social issues that only the very privileged can have. The elusiveness of the narrative was engrossing as the audience is trying to piece together the story, however it becomes monotonous after the main revelations have happened. The film went on past my interest and continued even when my interest had completely evaporated. And no amount of framing artistry or complex characterization can save a movie once that happens.

Previous Sundance reviews from Murtada

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Reader Comments (1)

I am so hyped for Swinton and her daughter!

February 2, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

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