The Souvenir is about a story that we have seen before. A woman falls in love with the wrong man. It uses a subtle approach which brings a kind of fascination to it. There is little mood to the presentation.
Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is a screenwriter determined to create her first feature film. She meets Anthony (Tom Burke), a state official, who demonstrates a penetrating intelligence about art. She falls for him. He’s a smooth talker with charisma and there’s a mysterious air about him which charms her further. Thus their relationship grows.
The actors are partly responsible for why the film works. Burke gives Anthony a calm and orderly disposition that belies the truth about his internal self. And Swinton Byrne as Julie is forgiving but also an indecisive risk taker. They bring a complexity to the relationship that draws curiosity for its outcome. They have a mature respect for one another. And Tilda Swinton is Julie’s mother, caring but also knowing about their situation. The subtlety in the performances and screenplay (by the director Joanna Hogg) give depth to these characters whose issues begin to surface. Ultimately this is a film about love and suffering.