“The Souvenir” is a British drama film produced by BBC Films, BFI Film Fund, JWH Films, and Protagonist Pictures. Director Joanna Hogg tells us her semi-autobiography story about being a film student who tries to bridge her idealism with a life that suffers from a lack of financial perfection. Her romantic relationship with a young government official complicates everything and shakes her emotions.
Julie, played by Honor Swinton Byrne, is a film student who intends to make a film about a fictional story set in Sunderland. The idea sparked a debate with her professors, who advised Julie to include her personal experience in the story and minimize the fictional aspect. Julie shares an apartment with her classmates who like to bring their partners to stay over. She meets a man named Anthony, played by Tom Burke, who works in the foreign ministry and impresses her by sending a postcard with a painting titled “The Souvenir,” which Anthony later takes Julie to see in person in a gallery.
As Julie’s roommate moves out, Anthony asks permission to stay there temporarily. Every time he goes to work, Anthony likes to ask Julie for change. In reality, Julie is also experiencing financial difficulties, and she has borrowed money from her elderly mother several times to buy equipment for her studies. Anthony goes to Paris for a few days and comes back with a gift for Julie, lingerie. When they chat, Julie notices a scar on Anthony’s arm, and he says it’s just a regular scar. As time goes by, Anthony often asks Julie for money, including for his meals, which further undermines Julie’s finances.
One day, Anthony takes Julie out for dinner with his filmmaker friend. While Anthony goes to the bathroom, his friend says that Anthony is a drug addict, but Julie does not believe it. Anthony invites Julie to Venice one day, and he tells Julie that he has been to Venice three times with three different women. However, one of them chose to commit suicide there. One night, after coming back from school, Julie finds her apartment ransacked. She cannot find her jewelry, which, according to Anthony, was possibly stolen by the burglar.
During their vacation in Venice, Anthony admits that he stole Julie’s jewelry, which makes her angry. However, Anthony provides an explanation that he did it to cover his expenses at work. One day, Julie witnesses Anthony under the influence of drugs when he wakes up from sleep.
In conclusion, “The Souvenir” is a film that explores the world of cinema through the lens of a young filmmaker trying to come to terms with her idealistic views and financial struggles while navigating an emotionally complicated relationship. The film’s superb acting, direction, and screenplay have received positive reviews, and it won the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. If you appreciate good drama with potential for a twist, then “The Souvenir” should not be missed.