About a quarter in on Joanna Hogg’s ‘The Souvenir,’ there were a handful of walk-outs on my afternoon screening. I can empathize. So far, the story wasn’t progressing much, and it seemed slow and the style on the self-indulgent side. But there’s a certain something in the movie that makes me keep on watching, there’s something there that draws me in. Perhaps I see that something in the character of Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) who is developing a relationship, maybe, with Anthony (Tom Burke) But there’s a lot of murkiness there – are they dating. At some point they seem to be sleeping on the same bed, but joking about concrete divisions.
The title of the movie is from a painting by Jean Honore Fragonard, and it is of a woman who is carving her initials on a tree. She is in love, perhaps, as she seems to be holding a letter which she probably just got from her lover. The painting is a perfect metaphor for the film – how you view it depends on how you have experienced love. The most attractive part of the movie is that we see Julie change before our eyes, and by the end of the film, she is transformed to a person who has had a life-changing experience. Or perhaps she just fell in love. We all have, and damn it if we don’t see a mirror of our life in there somewhere. The film is not about a plot, or a story. This film is all about a feeling, akin to what that painting will represent in your life. This film is close to a masterpiece.
I want to see it again, and I wonder what part I will focus more. The film got ingrained in my head I literally dreamed about the characters the night I saw it. I wonder how long they will haunt me.