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Bring a Baby: The Souvenir

Joanna Hogg

Joanna Hogg is one of the most singular voices in British filmmaking today. Her slow-burn aesthetic and preoccupation with middle-class milieu might divide audiences, but her work is uncompromisingly her own. While the precision of her filmmaking (Archipelago, Unrelated, Exhibition) is sometimes mistaken for aloofness, The Souvenir is her most personal work to date and every frame is delicately infused with raw memories and naked emotion.

"...a fine example of a filmmaker utterly in control of her material, her talent and her truth."

Honor Swinton Byrne (daughter of Tilda Swinton and John Byrne) is Julie, a naive, middle-class photographer and aspiring filmmaker in 1980s London. Her quiet intensity attracts the attention of older man Anthony (a magnificent Tom Burke), who she meets at a party and is instantly drawn to. Julie and Anthony embark on an intense affair. Although he showers her with sophisticated gifts, introduces her to art and literature, much of his life is shrouded in mystery. Even when they move in together, Julie still knows very little about Anthony until his money difficulties reveal he’s a habitual heroin user. She stays with him and supports his efforts to come clean, but his addiction is set to destroy more than just their relationship.

Although much will be made of Byrne and Tilda Swinton playing mother and daughter on screen (both are excellent) it is Burke who steals the show with his charming, controlling and troubled Anthony. With period detail so perfect that it simply melts into the background, The Souvenir is a fine example of a filmmaker utterly in control of her material, her talent and her truth. With this film, Hogg more than deserves to take her place alongside names like Jarman, Loach, or Leigh as one of the very best British filmmakers to have graced our screens.