Monday, October 7, 2019


In my personal opinion, The Souvenir is what everyone wanted last year’s Beautiful Boy to be. Now…Beautiful Boy’s heart was in the right place and it didn’t paint a completely false narrative of what drug addiction can be (actually, both films show drug addiction from the perspective of privileged/upper class folks), but at the end of the day it just felt a little too flat and formulaic. I read nothing about The Souvenir before going in. I gathered that part of it was about drug addiction early on but it wasn’t spelled out from the very beginning. What started out as a story about young love quickly morphed in to something else...

It’s weird to consider Joanna Hogg’s latest work to be one of the best films of the year thus far (it certainly is one of my personal favorites of 2019). It’s not like the story is anything new or “groundbreaking” but it just works. One part deals with the young love/first love between a mysterious slightly older upper-class drug addict (Anthony) and a younger upper-class slightly sheltered/naïve aspiring artist (Julie). The second part of the movie deals with Julie and her path to finding her voice as an artist in film school. Again – on paper this is nothing new or innovative. The Souvenir is a callback to everything from An Education & Panic In Needle Park to Basketball Diaries & Goodbye My First Love (Hogg’s film being the “best looking” out of all the aforementioned works).
But to quote Seymour Cassel's "Joe" in In The Soup; I love you always sounds fresh to me. Just depends on who's sayin' it.

The Souvenir plays out like a Peter Watkins film (Edvard Munch specifically) combined with everyone/everything from early 2000’s Gus Van Sant (the use of music) to Lodge Kerrigan (Claire Dolan). There's even a moment at the very end of The Souvenir where Julie looks directly in to the camera which, to me, seemed like a direct homage to Watkin's...
Edvard Munch / The Souvenir 

Edvard Munch / The Souvenir 

Other visuals from The Souvenir look like they come out of older/classic films like Last Year In Marienbad
Last Year At Marienbad /
The Souvenir

Usually, I can’t make any strong visual connections between Joanna Hogg’s work and other visually striking films but The Souvenir is different...

Eaux d'Artifice / The Souvenir

Plenty of stories have dealt with drug addiction within the “upper crust” of society countless times, but very few have shown the painful cycle of addicts going from being addicted to getting clean to being hooked again and so on and so on. A lot of movies about drug addiction are extreme opposites. It's either the slow ascension to death, or an immediate recovery to getting clean without any relapse whatsoever. Going back to Beautiful Boy for a second (I don’t mean to put the two movies against each other but there are some striking similarities and they came out less than a year apart) – I can’t stress enough that its heart was in the right place. The movie didn’t have any kind of a “happy ending” and it certainly implied that even after the credits roll, the cycle of addiction may very well continue. But what sets The Souvenir apart from something like Beautiful Boy is that – and there’s no nice way to say this – Beautiful Boy feels like a well-crafted safe After School special. That may work for some of you, but not for me. It clearly didn’t seem to work for a lot of people because Beautiful Boy kind of came and went pretty quickly while The Souvenir is already popping up on a handful of preemptive “Best Of 2019” lists mostly due to all the excellent performances (from the "lesser known"/up & coming" lead actors to the supporting cast made up of Tilda Swinton & Richard Ayoade). Joanna Hogg builds up hope (even if you know the cycle of drug addiction), *SPOILER ALERT* and after things get dark we’re led to believe everything will slowly work out only for the exact opposite to happen *SPOILER END*

Apparently the cinematic universe of The Souvenir isn’t over. There’s a sequel that’s already been filmed and set to be released next year. Part of me feels a little hesitant to be excited for a part two of something like The Souvenir but given Joanna Hogg’s record I have faith she’ll do the story justice.


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