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The Souvenir: Part II
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Joanna Hogg
prd Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe,Joanna Hogg, Emma Norton, Luke Schiller
with Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade, Ariane Labed, Joe Alwyn, Charlie Heaton, Harris Dickinson, James Spencer Ashworth, Jaygann Ayeh, Tosin Cole, Jack W Gregory, Tom Burke
release US 29.Oct.21,
21/UK BBC 1h46
CANNES FILM FEST
Is it streaming?
Incisive filmmaker Joanna Hogg continues to mine her own backstory in this astonishing sequel to 2019's The Souvenir. It continues the narrative in the same short, sharp scenes, but expands to be funnier, darker and much more boldly inventive. And since much of it takes place on a movie set, it features some gorgeously surreal touches as well, all while maintaining that middle-class effort to bury anything unpleasant.
Returning to film school, Julie (Swinton Byrne) has channeled the grief over her suddenly late boyfriend Anthony (Burke) into her graduation project, which now isn't the gritty movie about poor northerners that her tutors wanted her to make. And her fellow students, who are working as cast and crew for her, are struggling to get a grip with her intensely personal directorial vision for this movie. But her parents (Swinton and Ashworth) support her meandering ambition unconditionally, even as they take an askance approach to the emotional connections within the family.
Various terrific characters pop up along the way, including a return visit from tantrum-throwing director Patrick (Ayoade), some loyal student collaborators (Labed and Ayeh), a gay film editor (Alwyn) who gently rebuffs Julie's clumsy pass, and two actors: one (Heaton) who helps Julie rekindle her physical passions and another (Dickinson) who struggles to find Anthony's essence while playing him in her movie. Hogg makes each sequence feel like it could almost stand alone, which has an impact on the film's momentum. But it builds to something so audacious that it takes the breath away.
Swinton Byrne finds added depth in the character, pushing Julie deeper and further with each moment. It's a remarkably full-blooded performance that somehow remains understated. Her scenes with Swinton are simply electric in what they convey without the need for dialog. And non-actor Ashworth has terrific offhanded presence alongside them. Each of the actors who passes through the film brings their A-game, adding pungent kicks to the story and themes while quietly mining the depths for resonance.
Hogg's filmmaking remains brittle and elusive, but this time has an assured robustness that continually catches us off guard. Settings and sets mirror each other, flickering between real-life locations and sound-stage constructions while playfully evoking the idea that art should never shout its point loudly. This is a movie that pulls us in, challenges us and leaves us to work out its secrets on our own. And there's rather a lot of treasure in here.
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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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