The Souvenir Part II

As the 2021 Awards Season kicks into high gear, we’re reminded of the glass we look through to find our place in the world. Call it a window, a camera viewfinder; we feel with our eyes, act with our mouths, touch with our hands. Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir Part II” expands this weekend to North American theaters.

A sequel to her powerfully affecting “The Souvenir,” Hogg expands the tactile feeling as life expands following the tragedy. Honor Swinton Byrne glows at Julie as she navigates her way through art school with her final film. The story sees her fragile recovery in its infancy as she seeks shelter in her parents’ home in the country. David Raedeker’s cinematography, especially in daytime scenes, evokes the power of light as an influence and, perhaps a confluence, in our lives. Julie’s mum, Rosalind, played by Tilda Swinton with a powerfully quiet ambiguity, fills the screen with her presence. There is an order, perhaps a formality within this chaos, something that Julie would like to move away from as soon as possible.

Hogg reminds us of the need to take a moment, to step back and reflect on what’s happened and its implications on Julie’s future as we transition to her post-recovery future as a filmmaker, a continuation of the semi-autobiographical nature of Hogg’s experiences at film school.

What follows is a documentary of sorts as she tries to piece together what kind of individual Anthony (played by Tim Burke in the first film) was and what her love, which she cannot seem to let go of, was for him. Through her discussions with friends and colleagues, she slowly begins to unravel herself in an interesting twist. It isn’t narrow-minded in its approach, and Hogg is careful not to become overly narcissistic – Julie is allowed to explore herself through her emotions and art, something the film explores through an emotional disagreement between another, more experienced director, Patrick (Richard Ayoade) and his editor.

What Hogg does to explore Julie’s boundaries, and her own, is to surround Julie with fellow students who want to see her succeed, despite Julie being told that her student film is not ambitious enough; her professors challenge her to expand her boundaries through a constant barrage of questions, “What has changed,” challenges her professor. “I don’t want to show life as it plays out. I want to show life as I imagine it to be.” In a way, “The Souvenir Part II” becomes a fairy tale of sorts as Julie uses her imagination to explore her feelings and put a proper perspective on the past events.

“The Souvenir Part II” requires the audience to be familiar with the first part as Hogg succeeds in using her imagination and gift of human feelings for others to tell this story. “If you have fallen down, you cannot go further down, so pick yourself up and aim high; you’ve got nothing to lose,” said Unarine Ramaru. Joanna Hogg and, by extension, Julie embody this statement to a ‘T.’

“The Souvenir Part II” is now in theaters throughout North America.