There was some mild trepidation venturing into Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Part II with knowledge of the absence of Anthony, an astoundingly captivating performance by Tom Burke as a strung-out posh scrounger. Yet his eventual demise in The Souvenir proves to be the impetus for everything in Part II. His presence is still very much felt, just as cumbersome and pervasive, preoccupying Honor Swinton Byrne’s Julie’s every waking thought.

Julie is in mourning and desperately trying to piece together memory fragments in the lead up to Anthony’s death, all of which will become fodder for her degree film. She painstakingly interviews all those who knew Anthony, from flamboyantly acerbic director friend (Richard Ayoade) to bohemian drug dealers to even seeking the services for a medium; discovering more about her partner than she ever could whilst he was alive. She simultaneously tries to return to some form of student-life normalcy, which was previously solely expended on Anthony.

Part II is as striking and sophisticated as expected, paying homage to all the visual motifs of its predecessor. Events are seen through a soft and tender gaze, featuring a pallet of pale colours. Hogg’s usual style of simmering restraint where discreet social observations reverberate loudly can be found too, most prominent being her matter-of-fact depiction of her own privileged upbringing.

Part II is like watching an autobiographical film where Hogg directs a younger version of herself. The whole thing is lusciously meta, but not in the least bit confusing. For Hogg, and subsequently for Julie, filmmaking becomes a process for catharsis and internal exploration. It’s also an act of masochism, as Julie relentlessly has to explain and rehash to cast and crew tragic life moments which reveal a weak and passive personality. But in doing so, she taps into uncharted inner stealth which have led to an exceptionally illustrious career.

RATING: 5/5


INFORMATION

CAST:  Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, James Spencer Ashworth, Richard Ayoade

DIRECTOR: Joanna Hogg

WRITER: Joanna Hogg

SYNOPSIS: Picking up where The Souvenir left off, Julie, now in mourning from the loss of her partner, decides to put all her grief into completing her degree film.