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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz

The Souvenir Part II

An Everlasting Guardian Angel Film


See It Or Skip It: See It


Most films about great artists paint them as these mad creative geniuses whose work dictates their entire lives. British film director, Joanna Hoggs is not such an artist. There’s nothing wrong with aiming upwards but aiming forward as it has its own high level of complexity. Hoggs has always found complexity in the ordinary and eventually the stories that reside inside what is often ignored found their way into her work.


In 2019 Hoggs gave audiences Part I of The Souvenir, a semi-autobiographical account of her years at film school in the early 1980s. Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an ambitious and clever student just as Hoggs was. The Souvenir followed her relationship with Anthony (Tom Burke), a handsome and charismatic older man and her first big love. Anthony had a very severe heroin addiction that for much of Part I was the prime focus of Julie’s world. The extent of her loyalty was so beautiful which was a very uncomfortable feeling because it was also so unhealthy. No level of loyalty or love would have been enough as Anthony’s addiction eventually kills him leaving Julie devastated.


Part II begins not long after Part I ends. Julie is grieving at her parent’s (Tilda Swinton & James Spencer Ashworth) home but ready to return to her film studies. She decides to base her graduation film on her relationship with Anthony as a memorial. As the director, she must re-examine her relationship with Anthony and come to terms with what she finds. Part II focuses heavily on Julie trying to make it through her grief intact but what Hoggs has done here is brilliantly use it as a visual into what making films is like. A good deal of Part II takes place at Julie’s school and if she’s not on the set, she’s in the editing room or anywhere else she and her cast and crew engage.


By the end of Part I, we really do feel that we know who Julie is but Part II shows things we may not have picked up on because like her, we were too focused on her mission to help someone who couldn’t be saved. Part II offers a brighter glimpse into her other important relationships, especially with Tilda Swinton’s Rosalind. Honor Swinton Byrne (Tilda Swinton’s real daughter) and Tilda Swinton’s scenes together have such a sincere warmth to them that is truly from another era. Just that indescribable portrayal of kindness and genuine interest towards one another is a form of respect that just doesn’t exist anymore. If it does, it’s hidden away where it may never be seen again. I watch these two actors in their craft and there’s depth but no drama.


They get along so well because there's so much of both of them in one another and they find joy in that. Just sitting on the couch together gives them a platform to find themselves among the vast inner landscapes of their emotions.


Julie: How did you feel when Anthony died?


Rosalind: I was very concerned for you.


Julie: No, not what I felt, what did you feel?


Rosalind: ... I think I felt through you.


Swinton’s delivery of that line is both a loving hug and a violent punch in the gut because I remember so clearly towards the end of Part I when Julie and Rosalind were staying up late the night Anthony died waiting for him to return to the apartment. As Julie went downstairs to tape a note on the front door so Anthony won’t worry about waking them, Rosalind sits on Julie's bed and breathes heavily but with such silence. You see her body throbbing and her emotion overcoming her but she’s as still as a statue. Julie comes back and Rosalind’s body comes back down to earth. THAT is feeling through someone you love and while Honor and Tilda’s history and relationship as mother and daughter is theirs and ONLY theirs, I still felt tearfully humbled at looking through a window into their lives. Honor and Tilda are both lifelong friends of Hoggs and the three of them aren’t just making a movie, they’re making one of their personal histories and they do it with overwhelmingly gentle compassion.


Julie’s relationship with her film peers also highlights such a sense of freedom. She enjoys having her own crowd and Rosalind wants her to have that. She wants her to have a full life, those young years, and to find success in her passions. As Julie’s film reaches its editing stages, she dives headfirst into taking a look at a time in her life she’s been trying to heal from but she soon learns that sometimes, the only way forward is through.


Richard Ayoade has a few scenes as one of Julie’s friends Patrick whom she met through Anthony when they were dating. Patrick has this unapologetic nature to his filmmaking while Julie is struggling not to be such a people pleaser. Ayoade illustrates the difficulties of making it through a film intact and while very humorous, realistically highlights what it looks like for artists to make sacrifices and Julie learns from this.


Patrick has this energy in him that Julie never saw in Anthony. Anthony had been an addict for a long time when he met Julie and her time with him was in those really dark final stages of life. Julie never knew Anthony as a normal person and this makes it very traumatizing for her to determine what of their relationship was real. Anthony was drained and Patrick is almost a guardian angel in that he represents what Anthony may have been.


Part I and Part II really are the same film, it’s just that its heroine stretches so tightly in her growth that her story requires two parts. “I don’t want to show life as it plays out. I want to show life as I imagine it” Julie says to her film professors. We only ever have our own imaginings. Our own interpretations of how experiences unfold. Experience is personal growth and growth of any kind is everlasting. It still is for Hoggs/Julie years later and it will be for us all. I just hope the experience will go easy on us.





“The Souvenir Part Ii Poster - Google Search.” Best Buy, 2018, www.google.com/search?q=the+souvenir+part+ii+poster&tbm=isch&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS792US792&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiPhOLO1Zv0AhWLIN8KHT5ZA3gQrNwCKAB6BQgBEOMB&biw=1678&bih=1221#:%7E:text=Complaint%2C%20Complaint%2C%20Complaint.-,Best%20Buy,The%20Souvenir%20%5BDVD%5D%20%5B2019%5D,-Visit.


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