Review: The Souvenir (2019 Sundance Film Festival)

Title: The Souvenir
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins

What It Is: In the early ’80s young film student Julie (Swinton Byrne) begins a relationship with the handsome and complicated Anthony (Burke). Julie comes from an affluent farming family. Anthony works for the local government in some capacity. Another is also hiding a secret, one that could signal an end for their relationship. One emotionally naive the other naive to the demons of life these two will hit an absolute rock bottom. Can they pick each other up or will the pieces be all that’s left?

What We Think: An absolute bore. THIS is what Sundance considers the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema – Dramatic? An over pretension borefest with glacial pacing. There are some decisions with the camera that don’t make sense. Some scenes are handheld and let to nowhere. The thin line between “art” and “nonsense” is unfortunately crossed with far too much heedlessness. I think the acting was rather strong particularly from Honor Swinton Byrne, whose only other acting credit was ALSO with her mother (playing a younger version of her) in the Luca Guadagnino film I Am Love over a decade ago.

Our Grade: D, This is seriously the best world cinema had to offer Sundance? An out of focus oft badly shot mess of snobbery and snooze-inducing madness. There were many other options for this award including two films I’d heard great things about Punch and Judy and This is Not Berlin. I do not recommend you waste your time with this. This is the experience that I ended my 2019 Sundance with and as I sat there in the blackened theater I just didn’t get what jurors Jane Campion, Charles Gillibert, and Ciro Guerra were thinking here. Regardless, don’t go near this…unless you need a nap.

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