LFF REVIEW: ‘The Souvenir: Part II’ (2021) an Exquisite End to Hogg’s Memoir

A young woman with cropped dark hair wearing a green, blue, and yellow plaid top. She sits at a desk in front of a window, and appears to be intently engaged in what she is reading, eyes focused downward.
Image courtesy of Picturehouse Entertainment

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Whereas Part I maps out a segment of trauma with powerful and sometimes unsure emotions,Part II’ revels in growth and finding one’s self.”

The Souvenir (Part I as it may now be known) was a film that took its audience on a journey through a complex, but ultimately toxic relationship. Our world was grounded by the confusion and uncertainty that its protagonist, Julie, felt both in herself and her relationship. The Souvenir Part II takes off from exactly where Part I left us, and gives us a beautifully cyclical inverse to the story.

Hogg has made no secret that The Souvenir is autobiographical, and whereas Part I maps out a segment of trauma with powerful and sometimes unsure emotions, Part II revels in growth and finding one’s self. The story was conceived as a whole, and this can really be felt in how perfectly the two parts align. We see Julie process and blossom out of the end of this trauma – (literally) creating something beautiful from the tragedy she faced.

Many from the original cast return, and it is Richard Ayoade (who played a minor role in Part I) who steals the show. His character, Patrick, is one filled with biting wit, and Ayoade’s slow and agitated delivery, echoed in his extremely precise movements, depict a man who knows exactly what he is and wants to be. This is something Julie craves, and by the end of the film we get a sense that she is well on her way to achieving this. After shunting school for her new romance in Part I, Julie takes her work in preparing for her grad film much more seriously. The relationships and clashes she faces while making her film go on to strengthen her vision and confidence both in herself and her work.

The film feels like somewhat of an outlier in Joanna Hogg’s oeuvre. Exhibition, and even Part I of The Souvenir feel grounded in realism, despite how unreal the lives of their characters may seem to many of the audience. The Souvenir Part II, however, is willfully self-reflexive, no more so than in its finale which brings the curtains down in unforgettable fashion. Hogg’s bread and butter is exploring the boundaries of middle class reserve, asking the audience: what is the breaking point of the stiff upper lip? This is very present within the film, as it widens its scope to explore the emotions and hobbies of some of its supporting characters, including Julie’s mother.

The Souvenir Part II is one of Joanna Hogg’s finest achievements. It is difficult to prise it away from its predecessor and bring to a close a story of such honesty and passion, both in one’s personal life and one’s professional life. Hogg allows the two to intertwine here, examining the past with such loving care that, despite Julie’s unbelievably privileged life, she creates a film allowing its audience to explore their own growth.

Cast: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, Charlie Heaton, Jaygann Ayeh
Director: Joanna Hogg
Writer: Joanna Hogg
Producers: Ed Guiney, Joanna Hogg, Andrew Lowe, Emma Norton, Luke Schiller