The Souvenir: Part II | Review | New York Film Festival 2021


Joanna Hogg follows up her 2019 film, The Souvenir, with Part II, a somewhat meta piece on the process of bringing the predecessor to life. That same English aesthetic is prevalent with a new pastel colour palette, aligning with the protagonist's new chapter. Starting where Part I ends, the film becomes a portrait of grief and how art can reconcile past and present. 

For those who loved the first, it offers all the same pleasures. Beyond the aesthetic, there's the naturalism, the layered dialogue and the intimacy, but should you have had a lukewarm response to the first, Part II offers much more to fall in love with, exploring beyond the side effects of toxic romance. 

For many, this film will feel familiar. It'll etch right into the skin of those who have ached over personal art. Whether that be through the medium of film, sculpture, writing, Hogg writes the most sincere love letter to those people. Hart is not a perfect artist. She doesn't have the answers to all the questions. She wastes time on set, adjusting cameras after the lighting is complete, haggles with actors to align with her vision and fights with her crew in a too-small van over all the things she is getting wrong on the journey to making her masterpiece. It's empathy in action, both for Hart and for any person who has ever dared to step foot on a film set.

The toxic romance remains, but this time it's with film. It explores the ego through a show-stealing Richard Ayoade and stews on the British level-headedness in the form of passive aggression. It discusses money candidly and who gets to tell their stories, which is prevalent in the privilege that Hart so clearly has, casually borrowing £10,000 from her parents like it's a 20 pence piece on the street. Part II feels like it understands its class more than the first, inviting a new audience to enjoy its splendour, becoming a more accessible film overall, particularly for young filmmakers on the rocky journey. 

Although it feels longer than it needs to be, perhaps due to the necessary catharsis that Hogg insisted on including, it felt even more personal than the first. Art is always at its finest when you can see the maker's hand in every frame, and Hogg doesn't hide, placing herself right in the narrative, not even interested in disguising her protagonist's initials. It's such a vulnerable thing to so openly share a slice of your reality for thousands of strangers to pick apart, and for that, she must be commended beyond the success of its technical beauty.

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