Just what constitutes a terrible boyfriend? Selfishness? Infidelity? Deceit? Theft? All of the above?
In Joanna Hogg’s ‘The Souvenir’ shy film student Julie, played by the very charming Honor Swinton Byrne, has a chance to find out.
Her boyfriend Anthony, beautifully played by Tom Burke, is the epitome of old world upper-class charm with his pinstripe suit and job at the Foreign Office. Yet all is not quite what it seems. Anthony, despite outward appearances, is a troubled soul who the naïve Julie has no defense against. As the film progresses, we think about a painting which Anthony had introduced Julie to of an 18th-century girl carving the name of her sweetheart into a tree, while a spaniel looks out at the viewer almost reflecting this puppy dog love depicted.
Indeed Julie is an almost like a Jane Austin character set adrift in the tumultuous waters of the late twentieth century looking around her in confusion and struggling to find the appropriate response to Toms increasingly appalling behavior.
Tilda Swinton as the repressed mother further underscores this world that seems to lack feeling but really is just trying desperately to avoid it.
Interestingly the film is set in the early eighties a time I remember only too well. Often in such period piece films, they never let you forget what era you’re in, but I was very impressed with the way significant events like the Harrods bombing are covered as a mere background and also used to hint at the growing sense of dread and confusion that Julie is feeling.
This is a film that slowly sneaks up on you working its charms when you’re least expecting them. Indeed when I started watching, I tried to convince myself to hate it but quickly began to realize that any faults were my preconceptions, not the films
I doubt whether I’ll see a better movie about a relationship this year or fall more in love with an onscreen character than I will with Julie.