There's some fantastic dialogue in The Souvenir, a talk-heavy new drama from British writer-director Joanna Hogg. While the film features solid acting performances and a great soundtrack of alternative British pop/rock, the plot falls flat, and the story lacks any kind of arc. The movie, which debuted at Sundance and has received early critical acclaim, opens Friday at the Cedar Lee.
The film centers on Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne, daughter of Tilda Swinton), a twenty-something film student who wants to make a movie about a teenage boy who lives in the working-class port town of Sunderland. After she meets Anthony (Tom Burke), a man who says he works at the "foreign office," Julie begins spending more time talking about the movie than actually writing it or figuring out how to make it on the small budget that her school has allocated for it.
Her relationship with Anthony is particularly perplexing. In one scene, he tells her that she's "special" because she's so fragile. "You're lost, and you'll always be lost," he says at another moment, and somehow that pickup line works.
As they grow closer, Julie says he can stay at her place when her roommate goes out of town, and Julie begins sharing even more details about her movie with him. He again acts in a manner that suggests his disregard for her. When she reads him some of the script, he tells her, "It sounds like you've been backed into a corner by life." And somehow that line works too because the relationship keeps going.
After a trip to Paris, Anthony returns to her flat with a gift. He gives her a box and tells her, "Put it on." She wears the lingerie she finds inside the box, and the two consummate their relationship.
Much to the chagrin of her friends, who don't get the connection between the two of them, Julie sticks with Anthony even after he starts siphoning money from her. She even introduces him to her mother (Tilda Swinton).
When one of her instructors tells her that it's important to make a connection between her experiences and what she's trying to film, she begins writing a different type of movie. The Souvenir, however, doesn't show us enough of her film to demonstrate the ways in which it has changed, making for a pretty unsatisfactory and anticlimactic conclusion.