An ill-advised romance forms the crux of the story in this week’s The Souvenir. Honor Swinton Byrne stars as Julie, a film student who wants to find success but is also extremely shy when it comes to taking chances. She’s involved with Anthony (Tom Burke) who lives in the same house as Julie, one owned by Rosalind (Tilda Swinton).
That relationship is one that no one who knows Julie is a fan of. Anthony at first is loving and kind while their romance is secret but becomes more manipulative, cold and secretive as time goes on, a change the unassuming Julie grudgingly accepts because she doesn’t know the way out. Eventually her budding ambition encourages her to take a stand and refuse to be anything but successful.
The movie’s only poster just shows the chins and torsos of Julie and Anthony who are standing on the side of their car, their faces only visible in the reflection of the roof. The festival credentials are accompanied by some positive pull quotes from early reviews. It definitely gives off the vibe of the film, even if there’s no copy to further explain things.
The first trailer starts off by focusing on the relationship between Julie and Anthony, a relationship they’re successfully keeping hidden from her mother despite him renting a room in their house. She aspires to be a filmmaker and is working toward that, but her drive, as well as other factors, complicates the love affair as Anthony becomes more distant, resentful and difficult. She refuses to be held responsible for his changes, though, and keeps working toward her goals even while trying to maintain the relationship.
Online and Social
Just the basics on the tickets-centric website for the movie, a brief synopsis, the trailer and little else.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing here that I’ve seen, but the studio may have run some targeted ads in the areas where the movie is receiving limited release.
Media and Publicity
Shortly after the movie was announced as one of those premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival it was picked up by A24. Swinton-Byrne was pegged as one of the breakout stars of the festival, though she only reluctantly acknowledged that.
A clip released to Vanity Fair shows the mother/daughter pair sharing a scene.
Director Joanna Hogg was interviewed about the production and the themes of the story she wanted to communicate through the film. Those themes included ones pulled from her own life and experiences decades ago as an aspiring filmmaker. Indeed she became the focus of the publicity campaign close to release as the personal nature of the story became more clear. Also mentioned in that last piece is that a sequel that continues Julie’s – and Hogg’s own – was about to go into production.
How women allow their own identities to be cast in the shadows of men brimming with unearned confidence is a story that doesn’t often make it to film, with a few notable exceptions. Based on the campaign, which sells the movie as an atmospheric art-house drama filled with difficult moods and complex characters, it seems to be the cinematic equivalent of Twitter threads where women recount having their own expertise dismissed by men sure of themselves even if they’re wrong. “Yeah but have you *really* explored the subtext of Fight Club?”
What’s good to see is that the initial focus in the press on the casting of Swinton and her famous mother eventually gave way to how personal this story is for Hogg. It could have easily been sidelined over fears it would make a female filmmaker appear vengeful or too emotional, despite countless male filmmakers working out their issues with women in movies. Allowing Hogg to share her indignation and growth is a powerful hook for the film’s campaign to use as a way to lure audiences.
Picking Up the Spare
More from Hogg on the real events that inspired her in this interview as well as in this joint feature with Swinton Byrne. The director also talked with Martin Scorsese, who served as producer on the film.