Dreadfully slow and plain old dreadful, The Souvenir offers up unlikable characters and a simple story that are barely worthy of a subplot in a larger, better film — and definitely not a two-hour feature with these lackluster components at the center.
Set in early/mid-1980s England, writer/director Joanna Hogg’s visually sharp but tonally dull drama focuses on film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne, I Am Love) and her fraught romance with Anthony (Tom Burke, Only God Forgives), a government worker with some unsavory habits that won’t be spoiled here, seeing as their reveals are the film’s few lively moments.
The pair give fine performances in the service of drudgery, engaging in generally unproductive conversations that keep their personal motivations and relationship’s dynamics frustratingly shrouded.
Even more mind-boggling is Hogg’s waste of Byrne’s real-life parent Tilda Swinton as Julie’s mother. Granted at most five minutes of screen time, the appealing actress elevates each of her scenes and speaks for befuddled critics by uttering the line, “The worst,” late in the film.
Practically impossible to recommend, to the point that one wonders about the health of the minds that helped shepherd it to completion and respectable distribution, the film saves perhaps its cruelest joke for last, threatening The Souvenir: Part II at the tail end of the credits. No thanks.
Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre