Sometimes, a movie based on a true coming-of-age drama based, on the life of a writer or a director, can be beautiful and moving. But then could also end up like “The Souvenir”, which has a fine setup – but totally misses the execution. When the main character is there in place as a stand-in for the writer/director, you can feel that the message should be delivered thoughtfully. However, here the cast is excellent – but the story meanders and drips out so slowly and in such a convoluted manner that you might kick yourself to stay focused. The level of the actors is so high that they deserve to tell a soaring tale, yet they are given very limited story that barely keeps any interest.
Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an English woman in her young 20’s. She is working to strike out on her own, using her skills in photography to get into film school. She has some very loving parents, including her mother Rosalind (Tilda Swinton). Julie has a boyfriend who is much older than she is. Anthony (Tom Burke) is somewhat charming and he has a broad education. But he has many woeful character traits. He works for British government in a high position. But he has left his wife, and he cheats and steals. The worst part is that he has a heroin addiction. Julie tries to see past all the bad stuff, and she accepts him with all his flaws.
They are together is a small flat in town. Anthony has strange hours for work and many times goes abroad. Julie is attending school and working on film project. She wants to make a documentary of a now defunct ship-building operation in a nearby town. How has the shutdown of the plant affected the people that remain? But when she has lunches with Anthony and diners with her parents – she is at a loss of words about how to describe her project. Mother Rosalind thinks that Julie could do much better for herself, by getting into a better school and finding a boyfriend who is not as unpredictable.
So, Julie attends school and meets with Anthony from time to time. They take a trip to Venice. But the little apartment also gets robbed one day. And then later Julie finds a shady character hanging out in the flat, waiting for Anthony. This other guy was looking to score some heroin, and he wants to get some from Anthony. Julie chases him out. But she is worried that Anthony is hooked up in something that is really bad. Anthony is defiant, but later on, he succumbs to the addition more and more. He is on a final downward spiral, and even Julie’s help will not save him. Julie works and struggles to get her documentary completed. Rosalind stops over quite often to see if there is something she can do, or if she can loan her some cash.
The resulting movie is a repetitive series of little scenes from Julie’s life. It is all well and good. But there is nothing compelling or nothing that drives any of the characters. So, the result is two hours of inaction that lead up to a non-conclusion. People pass into the Julie’s life, and people pass out of it. She does not take a hard stand much of anything. Even when Anthony is abusing his situation and taking advantage of Julie – she does not do anything. She remains a passive observer of her own life. This is far from a dramatic, edge-of-your-seat immersive experience. You just sort of see what is happening. The direction is such that the movie becomes a meandering stream of random events.
The acting of Honor Swinton Byrne (as Julie) and Tilda Swinton (as her mother Rosalind) is very believable. But of course, Tilda Swinton is the actual mother of Honor Swinton Byrne, so that is a little like typecasting. Tilda is highly respected and accomplished actor. It seems like her daughter, Honor, will be quite capable of following along that path that her mother has opened for her. Tom Burke has a very difficult role, since he is playing a charming cad who is on a downward slope. He just keeps getting worse and worse, as his character gets consumed by his addition. But it does not help that he is basically a ten-pound sack of manure out in the sun for several days…
When you participate in something meaningful, you might want to bring home a little reminder of what you accomplished. But when it comes to seeing this movie, you might pass on the chance to pick up “The Souvenir”.
In the Phoenix area, this movie will open exclusively at the Harkins Scottsdale Camelview…