August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

The Souvenir

Lionsgate, 120 min., R, DVD: $19.99, Aug. 6

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s highly autobiographical film centers on Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), a film student in 1980s England who takes up with Anthony (Tom Burke), a smug know-it-all who is obviously a phony, remaining devoted to him despite his behavior, which grows increasingly erratic and dangerous. As her graduation project, the well-to-do Julie is filming a painfully earnest drama set in a crumbling seaport when she meets Anthony at a party. Claiming to be with the Foreign Office, he impresses her with his learning and fastidious manners and he moves into her nicely-appointed flat. Julie is apparently paying for everything—including the meals they share in posh restaurants—and it soon becomes obvious that Anthony is not merely a parasite, but also an addict who will resort to stealing from Julie to support his habit. Even after he stages a burglary of the apartment, Julie stays committed to Anthony, and her parents are unaccountably supportive. When he disappears, Julie’s mother (Tilda Swinton, the lead’s real-life mother) comforts her as they await word of what has happened to him. Swinton Byrne effectively conveys Julie’s youthful vulnerability, while Burke’s performance is a model of smarmy duplicity masked by bullying self-confidence in this powerful drama about a modern Svengali and his hapless victim. Recommended. (F. Swietek)