The Souvenir Movie Review
The most infuriating thing about The Souvenir is that writer/director Joanna Hogg appears to go out of her way to make her movie as boring as possible. Strike that. The most infuriating thing about The Souvenir is that most critics loved it.
About a young female filmmaker (Honor Swinton Byrne) who starts a relationship with a man who turns out to be a drug addict, The Souvenir is a drama about tedium, so intentionally reserved in all facets of the production that within minutes your eyes will begin to roll far back into their sockets, threatening to do a full revolution. You almost immediately wish for the boyfriend, played by a Britishly British Tom Burke, to die of an overdose within the first few minutes.
Both Byrne and Burke are perfectly cast, their stoic, passive performances a great complement to the passive, seemingly uncaring storytelling, their characters like wisps on a crawling breeze you barely notice nor care to notice. That’s not slant against the actors—both bring the material to life as best they can, with Burke delivering a satisfyingly cruel turn—cruel in the sense that you hate from the first minute even at a time when you aren’t supposed to hate him.
The problem is, it’s much easier to hate the movie itself more. It’s not that Hogg has made a bad movie per se; it’s clearly the movie she set out to make, a consistently told—the muted aesthetics match the muted emotion of it all—a convincingly real tale. It’s just that the movie Hogg set out to make is so consistently boring, every character interaction so inert and unexceptional it’s almost impossible to sit through its entirety.
You can see why cinephiles are drawn to it—there’s something about a purposefully expressionless production that gets them spun up, the draw of a film that bucks modern convention to be bombastic or dare we say melodramatic. But there is a difference between reserved and flat, and The Souvenir is most certainly flat.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.