‘The Souvenir Part II’ continues directly where its predecessor left off, following Honour Swinton Byrne’s Julie processing the loss of her troubled lover Anthony (Tom Burke). ‘The Souvenir Part II’ is less of a sequel in the conventional sense as it is exactly what the title implies: a much needed second helping, further extending the themes and character arcs that were established in Part I. The end result is a delightfully metaphysical meditation upon filmmaking itself, as both an art form and a medium for comprehending emotions. As Julie says of her own movie, filmmaking is not about the world as it is, but how she sees the world.
Julie is, mostly, a stand-in for director Joanna Hogg, with Part I serving as a recreation of her relationship with Anthony, and her time at film school in London in the 80’s. In Part II, after Anthony’s death, Julie begins work on her graduation film, which we find out is about a young woman at film school in a relationship with a man called Anthony – sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Hogg has made a movie about herself making a movie about something she made a movie about, of which this movie is a sequel. This all may sound frightfully confusing. The film was described in its initial press notes as a ‘deconstruction of a reconstruction’, though upon viewing it does all fall into place, and the beauty of what Hogg has achieved is astonishing.
The performances are utterly human and raw from the entire cast, and even when they aren’t, in the case of the cartoonish, eccentric director played by a once again scene-stealing Richard Ayoade, they still manage to serve the film’s rich blend of faithful retelling mixed with playful tweaking of events. The interplay between real-life mother and daughter played by Tilda and Honour Swinton respectively is likewise a repeated treat, lending an air of natural authenticity to what we witness, making one feel as if they were really in the room. This sense of immersion is only broken down when Hogg wishes it to be: when Julie’s graduation film is finally revealed the actors are replaced with their real counterparts (in the movie’s universe that is), once again viscerally deconstructing the process of expression as it is tied to real-life events in a masterful fashion.
It is hard to think of a flaw with this film, and even harder to think of a ‘sequel’ so justified in its existence. One can only commend Hogg for completely fulfilling her aspirations in this essential viewing experience exemplifying an auteur at the top of their game.
The Souvenir Part II is currently showing at Cameo Picturehouse and Filmhouse.
Image Credit: Benedikt Reiter via Flickr.