This worthy sequel continues the young filmmaker’s story of ambition, loss, and life.
In the tradition of sequels to independent features like “Before Sunrise” and “Clerks,” “The Souvenir” joins the club with “The Souvenir: Part II.” The first movie from 2019 introduced us to Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor Swinton Byrne, who plays an ambitious young filmmaker in London, 1980s with a heroin addict and thief of a boyfriend. It was also based on director Joanna Hogg’s experiences in film school, and she tells both stories with a certain ode to young filmmakers and their worlds, particularly her main heroine.
The filmmaker is named Julie and she tries to figure out what her boyfriend Anthony (Tom Burke) was doing the day he O.D-ed. With him gone, she feels an empty hole inside of her, and loses that particular intimacy, which is why she can’t get back in the dating game.
She’s on the verge of graduating from film school, and needs to finish her project. Of course, her superiors aren’t sure what her ambitions are, but she’s still ambition enough to complete her film, titled “The Souvenir.” And remember, the painting establishes the theme of both movies.
Reprising their roles are Tilda Swinton as Julie’s mother Rosalind, whom she often visits and needs some money for her film, and Richard Ayoade has his hilarious moments as the cocky filmmaker Patrick. Seeing the mother and daughter reminisce on how Anthony affected them is touching, and seeing Patrick with his cigarette, coat, and attitude makes us want a spin-off. Jay and Silent Bob did, so why can’t he? And this guy loves Orson Welles. Who doesn’t?
It’s important that you see the original 2019 film in order to know what you’re getting yourself into with “The Souvenir: Part II.” Honor Swinton Byrne is exceptional in both movies, because of how she distinguishes her character as an ambitious filmmaker, who now barely feels complete, because of her loss. Hogg gives her a character study so complex, that it takes us in different paths on where her life is heading. Hopefully, on a better path than Anthony’s.
There are moments that leave you guessing, like when she misses her period and vomits, or one of the last scenes when she chases Anthony through various film sets. Some are Roman, some are noirs, and in a strange way, it almost reminded me of the final scene in “An American in Paris.” I know it’s not a musical, but I just had that feeling.
Parts do leave you a bit confused, but you still acknowledge what Julie is going through and how she tries to overcome her tragedy through the power of filmmaking. Hogg is able to represent the movie within a movie genre with a stylish and emotional spark. And I admired the broad sense of humor that sneaks in. Sometimes, it’s ironic, sometimes, it’s satirical, and always, it’s honest. But this movie isn’t much of a comedy, as it is a drama about ambition, grief, and life.
Like “Before Sunrise,” you hope there’ll be a trilogy, because there’s a story inside that should continue. It’s interesting, bold, and truthful. When I first saw the original, I didn’t expect for it to have a sequel, and it’s as fresh as the original.
In Select Theaters This Friday