top of page
  • Writer's pictureJames McCleary

The Souvenir: Part 2 // Film Review

Electric Boogaloo.

“Have you avoided the temptation to be obvious?”

The fundamental weakness of unplanned sequels is their need to over-explain. If the characters of Part One are designed to undergo a specific arc which shall progress them into the best versions of themselves, then Part Two can only really explore that same arc again, whether by regressing their protagonist or by introducing a new deuteragonist with a similar path to tread. Consequently, it is exceedingly rare for the sequel to a surprise hit drama to actually match, or even rise past, the merits of the original.

The Souvenir: Part 2 (Joanna Hogg, 2022) is one such exception, shattering this unspoken rule with breathtaking aplomb largely due to one devilishly brilliant twist. This is the film about the film, or rather the creation of it. We open with Julie Harte (Honor Swinton-Byrne), the film student/alliterative namesake of Hogg from The Souvenir (2019), freshly in mourning over the tragic death of her boyfriend Anthony (Tom Burke) at the end of the previous film. Social courtesy obliges her to tour his friends and family, clarifying for them the circumstances circling his demise, though in doing so it occurs to her just how little she understands her own story. Did Anthony really love her, or was he only ever craving his next heroin fix? Thinking on it further, she realises she isn't confident that she even loved him back, rather she may have been seduced by the maturity of romancing a Foreign Officer.

Julie aspires to resolve this uncertainty in the only way she knows how; she's going to adapt it into a film. Her graduation film, to be precise. Rallying a team of students to perform and capture the downwards trajectory of her own recently departed, Julie refuses to listen to anyone who dares suggest this might not be the healthiest use of her talents. Inevitably, the clash between Julie's uncertainties as an emerging filmmaker and the indefinability of her traumas produce a plethora of conflicts warring around her like the avatars of her future and past respectively.

As with the original, The Souvenir: Part 2 plays this drama with quiet and patience, even at its most devastating. The elaborate set-pieces and confrontations which arise over the shoot never see resolution, and the characters largely continue to operate in their patterns despite any and all blow-outs. This puts the burden of expressing the pains of the film-within-a-film nearly exclusively on Swinton-Byrne's shoulders, which is a challenge she tackles with effortless grace. At once downtrodden and arrogant, self-righteous and guilty, her performance pinpoints with piercing accurate every beat of Julie's grieving process, culminating in a stunning climactic allusion to The Red Shoes (Powell & Pressburger, 1948) which ranks among the most resonately powerful film moments of the past five years. Whether this film ultimately finds a more positive outcome is not for me to spoil, though rest assured that, in the hands of Hogg and Swinton-Byrne, the story remains boldly assured right through to the final frame.

I look forward to Part 3.


bottom of page