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MOVIES: The Souvenir Part II - Review

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Joanna Hogg gave us one of the best films of 2019 with The Souvenir but it was so close-looped that you were left wondering whether a sequel was really necessary. Thankfully, she delivers – The Souvenir Part II is every bit as good as its predecessor, if not even better – Hogg takes a meta approach to this in putting Honor Swinton Byrne’s Julie – who has just lost her boyfriend, a drug addict – through a process of grieving that she relays through film, telling the story that she experienced on screen as part of the student film making process. It’s a deeply moving portrayal that really struck me – not idolising the relationship and being aware of its flaws, The Souvenir Part II feels like it addresses the issues that people had with the first one whilst finding its own story to tell – it’s a truly triumphant feat.

The cast across the board is excellent – Honor Swinton Byrne delivers an absolutely stunning performance – we see the relationship with Julie’s parents explored more, and we learn that Tilda Swinton (Honor’s real life mother), Rosalind – has taken up pottery making classes. During a particularly bad day, Julie accidentally smashes her mother’s beloved homemade pot – and asks for £10,000 as a loan to finish the film. You see Tilda Swinton give a quietly nuanced performance her all – both actors have that natural chemistry that comes with their off-screen history and you instantly buy them as mother/daughter – and it’s so important to The Souvenir Part II working. Richard Ayoade is the main comic relief role, dual-wielding cigarettes, and his film student persona is purely designed to poke fun at film students – his character compares himself to Martin Scorsese, turns up drunk to shooting and eventually annoys people so much he’s cut from his own film in the editing process. Much of this film being about filmmaking as a whole shine a fascinating light on the creative process – and the film-within-a-film aspect lends itself into the otherworldly element of The Souvenir Part II’s second half all the more.

It's entirely justified as a sequel that exists not as a continuation but as a sequel. It’s a proper closed loop, a satisfying ending to Julie’s story in every sense – set to an excellent soundtrack that anchors this firmly in the time and place of ‘80s England. Julie watches historical events take place through the film as the Berlin Wall collapses around her – and it’s fascinating to witness Joanna Hogg’s take on history.

The Souvenir Part II is stunningly shot from start to finish and entirely beautiful – the sensitive and reflective look makes the 2019 film almost look one-note in comparison, which is saying something – there’s a whole different approach adopted here that completely maintains the spirit of the first one, transcending it on every level. Hogg is a uniquely talented filmmaker, and that’s reflected here – there’s simply nothing else like this and The Souvenir Part II emerges not only as a favourite of the festival but one of my favourites of the year. To overlook Honor Swinton-Byrne – or for that matter, Joanna Hogg - at the awards seasons would be mistake.

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