Why in the world does The Souvenir fail so terribly? I could probably go on about it for a long time but I shall spare you my angriest thoughts and leave you with the cool, calm and collected take on the latest film from British director Joanna Hogg.
The film follows a middle-class film student (played by Honor Swinton) who falls in love with a pretentious wan.. I mean, an upper-class businessman who also happens to be a heroin addict. It looks at the strain that it puts on her overall wellbeing, her schoolwork and her relationship with her family (her mum is played by Honor’s actual mum, Tilda).
One of the worst things about it is how much it drags along, probably thinking it’s saying something profound and meaningful when, in reality, it’s being dull and drab. I had seen Never Look Away the day before, that film is 3 hours long and felt nowhere near as long as this two hours monstrosity. I believe its because it had something to say, it was engaging, continuously evolving as a film over the runtime, this just makes it even more embarrassing to compare to The Souvenir which recycles its plot in the same film.
It takes you away to scenes for about 3 seconds and then takes you home, you’re left wondering why you were even shown this, for example, an unnecessary train journey to Venice that instead of moving the story along feels like an excuse for the cast to play dress up in Victorian clothes. The film could be about half an hour shorter and still have the same impact that the two-hour version had, none.
It falls into the trap of other films with a drug abuser in it, a type of film I seem to catch at Edinburgh Film Festival every year, in which the film has no other choice than to resolve the drug issue, make him fall back into it, then rinse and repeat this until he or she has unearned death with no real emotion attached or the film ends unceremoniously just ends. Even when trying to heavily focus on the strain and trauma it is putting on the relationship, it just feels recycled. Honor Swinton feels like a decent enough pick in the lead role but never truly amazes and the same can be said for most of the cast.
Aside from the story, the film feels like it’s a hypocrite. It feels almost like Hogg is poking fun at the film school mentality in which there is always something a deeper meaning, or an emotion to explore, she then tries to do it here but it always falls flat. You see it the most when the film switches to 16mm (or something more grainy at least), it almost screams at you like a child “LOOK AT ME! AREN’T I ARTY”. Well, the answer is no, no you’re not. I think at least some people agree with me, there were 4-5 walkouts at the press showing of the film and hundreds more at the public showings I’d imagine
I’ll more than likely force myself to sit through another one of these because according to news outlets they seem to be making a sequel to this. That’s pretty upsetting news as there really is no need at all. The film is arrogant, insufferable and a bit pretentious too, and unlike the main character in the film, I do not find its arrogance sexy in the slightest.
Another one of the worst of the festival, I promise there will be some positivity coming soon.