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Review: 'The Souvenir' worth hanging onto

Coming of age story about class and privilege packs an unexpected punch

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Tom Burke and Honor Swinton Byrne in "The Souvenir."

Joanna Hogg's "The Souvenir" is a movie that stays with you in unexpected ways. 

Hogg's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story concerns a young filmmaker, Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), who is having difficulty honing her artistic voice. She comes from a privileged background, which she's concerned disqualifies her from telling the working class story of a young boy growing up in the shipyards. She has not yet honed her confidence, and allows herself to be talked down by the all-knowing men who act as gatekeepers to her project. When she's on set, her insecurities and inexperience get the best of her, and she's unable to properly communicate her vision.    

At home, Julie is paired up with Anthony (Tom Burke in a haunting performance), a curt and brash figure who carries himself with an air of mystery. Turns out he's hiding a rather large, dark secret, and when it is revealed, it sideswipes Julie and the viewer just the same. 

"The Souvenir" is an oddly alluring piece of filmmaking, rich and quiet and sneakily affecting. The performances are all superb, especially 21-year-old Swinton Byrne, the daughter of actress Tilda Swinton, making her proper screen debut. (Swinton plays Julie's mother.)

Through Hogg's storytelling, we're able to feel Julie's struggle and her self-doubt, as well as her resentment of the cushion she has to fall back on. Her relationship with Anthony takes her on an unforeseen detour and forces her to grow up, fast. The film's end credits reveal a sequel to the film is on its way. That "The Souvenir" is the foundation of a franchise is the film's biggest wallop of all. 

'The Souvenir'


Rated R: for some sexuality, graphic nudity, drug material and language

Running time: 119 minutes