No One Asked for a Sequel, but 'The Souvenir Part II' Is a Great Companion Piece Directed by Joanna Hogg

Starring Honor Swinton Byrne, Richard Ayoade, Tilda Swinton
No One Asked for a Sequel, but 'The Souvenir Part II' Is a Great Companion Piece Directed by Joanna Hogg
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Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir was an unlikely candidate to receive the sequel treatment. The 2019 film was semi-autobiographical in nature, detailing the protagonist's relationship with an older man while she was a film student in the '80s. The relationship was incredibly toxic and ended in her partner's fatal heroin overdose. The Souvenir was a complete work that left no questions unanswered — yet somehow Hogg's follow-up, The Souvenir Part II, feels like a necessary addition to her story.

Part II picks up right after the events of its predecessor. Honor Swinton Byrne returns as Julie, grieving and reconciling her feelings over the loss of her partner, Anthony (Tom Burke), and the trauma that relationship brought into her life. Byrne's real-life mom, Tilda Swinton, is back as Julie's refined and oh-so-posh mother, Rosalind. Their mother-daughter dynamic is warm and supportive, with Rosalind even being inspired by Julie's creative pursuits and taking up pottery with varying results.

Rather than focusing solely on Julie's grief, Hogg's sequel is a film about Julie coming into her own as a woman and a filmmaker as a result of the grief. Throughout Part II, Julie is making a movie for her film school, which is about her relationship with Anthony, naturally. Her confusion and unease throughout that partnership is apparent in her indecisiveness as a director trying to present the story in a coherent manner. It's an intriguing look inside the mind of an artist using their chosen medium as a way of grappling and exorcizing what haunts them.

Hogg also takes the time to make pointed commentary about working in the film industry as a young woman. She's talked over and talked down to, and the constant pressure to conform with the old guard — even for something as inconsequential as a script draft being held together with a ribbon — contextualizes Hogg's personal journey of becoming a director.

Part II is a quiet film that holds its audience at an arm's length while somehow still feeling intimate. The audience is a fly on the wall that sees a lot without being privy to anything real. Hogg has created a great companion piece to her 2019 film. It elevates the original film in hindsight, but is a film entirely its own, with a spectacular ending that will leave you uneasy and curious. (A24)