Tilda Swinton's daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, plays a young film student who becomes infatuated by a suave, yet untrustworthy man
In 1980s London, a shy but motivated film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) strives to make thoughtful documentaries that take her out of her privileged microcosm.
During one of her parties that she hosts in her Knightsbridge flat, she meets a suave and enigmatic junior Foreign Office employee Anthony (Tom Burke).
They enter into a relationship where Julie is enthralled by his seeming worldliness, authority and eccentricity, failing to understand the emotional manipulation and toxicity that she is being subjected to.
Anthony takes advantage of her naïve and trusting nature, asking her for small amounts of money at a time and disappearing for hours. Julie doesn’t question where he goes or what he does with her money and soon begins to pick up the bill for their lunches at Harrods.
Daughter of acclaimed actress Tilda Swinton (who has a supporting role here, also), The Souvenir stars Honor Swinton Byrne in her first ever acting role.
Hogg and Swinton Byrne have discussed how the actress was not given a script prior to or during production, resulting in an entirely improvised performance.
Byrne deftly captures Julie’s timidity and delicacy; you get the impression that Julie would physically break if she was to raise her voice or express any fierce emotion that could cause discomfort or disapproval in her beloved Anthony.
The film shows us Julie interacting with her peers at film school during workshops where she passionately expresses her knowledge and assumes a more assertive, confident attitude. It’s a stark contrast to her demeanour around Anthony where she acquiesces to his every comment, no matter how myopic it may be.
Theirs is a relationship that dismantles the young student before she gathers a quiet and subdued resilience, attempting to steel herself to prevent further hurt and heartbreak.
However, their time together isn’t entirely destructive as Hogg makes a point of showing their mutual interests and playful banter as they argue over who takes up more room in the bed.
Hogg’s previous work, including Unrelated and Archipelago, have all received critical adulation and have attracted the attention of industry titans, most notably legendary director Martin Scorsese who has an executive producer title on the film.
Inspired by Hogg’s own experience as a film student falling in love with a mysterious older man, the director guides her star (effectively portraying a version of her younger self) with an assured sense of purpose and intention, proving that she is operating at the height of her creative talents and The Souvenir is the pinnacle of her already impressive career.