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Film Review: The Souvenir Part II

12 October 21 words: Manvir Basi

The second instalment of Joanna Hogg’s cinematic memoir is darker than the first, but just as personal...

Director: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade
Running time: 106 minutes

Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II, the follow-up to the 2019 critically acclaimed hit, premiered at the London Film Festival and has been touring the UK ahead of its wide release. Despite the film’s title, it should not be viewed as a sequel, but rather as a continuation of one of the most original British films of the last few years.

Part II picks up after the aftermath of the death of Julie’s partner, Anthony. Julie, played by the excellent Honor Swinton Byrne, tries to rebuild her life and at the same time develop her fledgling film career and graduate from film school. 

If The Souvenir was full of optimism and lightness – despite some of the dark underlying tones, personified in the many internal monologues we hear of Julie – in Part II, we have the complete opposite. Instead, we observe – rather than being invited into – Julie’s intimate thoughts, as we watch her write her thoughts and ideas in her notebook, spend time with her family and being in therapy. 

On a side note, the film contains an absolutely excruciating argument scene involving the film crew, which any person involved in a large project will have no doubt experienced at one time or another.

An exploration of the personal nature of filmmaking in spite of its technical demands

This is not to say that Part II is all doom and gloom – far from it. In fact, at the heart of Part II is an exploration of the personal nature of filmmaking in spite of its technical demands. This all comes to a head as we watch Julie slowly let go of her horrific past and come into her own as a person and a filmmaker, in a moment which can only be described as a technicolour dream sequence that draws heavily on Powell & Pressburger’s The Red Shoes – a key inspiration for Hogg.

Returning in this film is an excellent supporting cast including Tilda Swinton as Julie’s mother and the superb Richard Ayoade as a rather obnoxious film director trying to make a British-themed musical, who provides some humour to the film.

With The Souvenir and now Part II – along with her previous work – Hogg has rightly earned the title of being the quintessential filmmaker of the British middle class, capturing their subtleties and nuances.

Did you know? Before releasing her first feature film, Joanna Hogg directed some episodes of BBC’s Casualty in 1997-98 and an EastEnders TV special in 2003. 

The Souvenir is in cinemas from 21 January 2022

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