The poster for Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical new film, The Souvenir, is like the photo on the box of a jigsaw puzzle; it shows the entire image when all the pieces are correctly assembled.
And suitably for this enigmatic film, it shows a couple—young film student, Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) and and her lover, Anthony (Tom Burke), where three-quarters of the image is a fuzzy reflection of the pair on a glassy surface, while their actual faces are cropped below his large eyes and just above her strong jaw.
Nowhere in the image is there a sign of anything that might be considered a souvenir. And this image or the scene vaguely depicted, is never seen in the movie. Perfect.
Putting together Hogg’s beautiful but frustrating film feels like assembling a compelling puzzle with missing pieces.
Part of this conundrum arises from Hogg’s elliptical storytelling style. Avoiding shopworn romantic tropes or perverting them, she presents Julie and Anthony’s developing relationship in meaningful scenes unsupported by connecting sinew. It’s a risky choice that works at times, emphasizing Julie’s ungrounded and naive understanding of herself, Anthony and the world; but at other times leaves questions of continuity for the viewer.
One wonders though since the movie is structured around Julie crafting a feature in film school if problems of continuity and cohesion aren’t emblematic of her developing mastery. That would certainly be the case given Hogg’s fascinating choice during production to supply a script to all actors but Swinton-Byrne. Instead, she was given Hogg’s diaries, photos, student films, etc. from Hogg’s film school days in the 1980s, which is when Souvenir is set. Swinton- Byrne, in turn, improvises throughout the film, bringing not incoherence to her role but a level of vulnerability and exposure.
The child of a protective and, at times, clueless mother, played by Swinton-Byrne’s own mother, Tilda Swinton, Julie is certainly a sympathetic character, but at times a maddeningly blind one. Since Hogg avoids any scenes where characters verbally express emotions or analyze their relationships, the meaning is pieced together from half-hints, suggestions, tone, and empathy.
The film practically requires multiple viewings to find all the pieces for assemblage. Which for some viewers will be a worthy endeavor, but only if they are willing to spend that much time with Anthony, a particularly unappealing character. His snobbery, pretensions, subterfuge, and inaccessibility combat whatever charm Julie finds in him.
Which, of course, rightly brings us back to Julie. Both defensive and mindless about her privilege, a repeated and developed theme in Hogg’s work, she is vulnerable to Anthony’s machinations, but she is so willing to overlook signals that for the viewer are glaring that I found my sympathy for her sorely tested. And I found the charms she saw in Anthony, little as they are and always literally paid for by her — a romantic trip to Venice, handmade dresses and gowns, meals at expensive restaurants — so suspect and thin that I couldn’t invest much in the two of them.
But that wasn’t necessary for me to be haunted by this film, both while watching it and afterward. Central to that appeal is Hogg’s vision, the incomplete complete picture. I keep coming back to a refrain in the film where an evocative image of a thin slice of ground, several earth-hugging trees, and a large frame of foggy sky, is accompanied by Julie’s voiceover. The language in these scenes is much more literary, more wise and insightful — is she reading from a book as she did earlier to Anthony?
This refrain is such a contrast that I wasn’t surprised that in the final moments of the movie, when Julie opens the tall doors of the sound stage where she has just finished shooting a scene of her student film, the only time in the student film sequences where she actually seems engaged and in control, that the image outside the sound stage, in the real world, is the low horizon, sky-filled landscape of the refrain.
It’s an image equally emblematic of this film as the poster, but it speaks to both the larger world and to Julie’s maturing self-awareness. It’s one of the puzzle pieces that snap together with others, forming an imperfect picture.
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm