Tainted Love

A good tagline for this film would be “DTMFA”

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Souvenir
RPL Film Theatre

August 16–18

It’s comforting to discover Tilda Swinton has a talented daughter who’s following in her steps. 22-year-old Honor Swinton Byrne joins the family fray as the lead in The Souvenir, the kind of maddening romantic drama in which the hero makes all the wrong choices (think anything by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, minus the laughs).

Swinton Byrne is Julie, a gifted, sheltered film mayor struggling to figure out her senior thesis. Her personal life gets in the way when she becomes involved with her roommate, Anthony (Tom Burke). Anthony is posh, cultured and aloof. He also has a wicked heroin addiction.

Despite the fact his boyfriend will do anything for a fix — including robbing their own apartment, Julie sticks with him. From an external point of view, it’s not clear why. Then again, those deep in a toxic relationship rarely realize they’re in one.

You know this movie isn’t playing coy when Joe Jackson’s “is she really going out with her” starts playing in the background. Blame writer/director Joanna Hogg, whose personal experiences at film school are the inspiration for this feature (my experiences at film school aren’t worth a GIF).

Hogg’s approach to filmmaking is naturalistic, random and self-aware. She takes herself way too seriously, but that’s the rare flaw that disappears with age. The filmmaker lets the scenes play out, allowing the awkward pauses and weird tangents normal conversations have. At a more conceptual level, Julie learns that pain is necessary for growth and that any aspiring artist needs to experience life to feed their art. Michael Bay’s soulless filmography is no accident.

Here is the thing about The Souvenir: never mind the lead’s boneheaded decisions, the film’s artsy pretentions and the grossly underused Tilda (as Julie’s mom, obvs) — the movie sticks with you. I guess I could have led with that. Oh well. An already-made sequel will be out next year, and you can bet I won’t miss it.