This review originally posted as part of our Sundance 2019 coverage.
Many films go into their Sundance world premieres with no distribution. Joanna Hogg‘s The Souvenir, on the other hand, debuted at the festival with A24 having bought the North American rights to the film and also knowing that the sequel will go into production this summer. The Souvenir marks the very first lead role for Tilda Swinton‘s daughter, Honor Swinton-Byrne. She plays Julie, a young woman enrolled in film school who doesn’t quite know who she is yet, who crosses paths with a mysterious man named Anthony, played by Tom Burke. Julie falls so hard for Anthony that before she knows it, she’s detached from her friends, lets Anthony borrow money whenever he pleases, and is essentially doing everything she can to serve his needs – even if it’s at her own expense.
During the Sundance Film Festival, Hogg and Burke took some time to swing by the Collider Studio to talk about their experience making the film. They dove into the semi-autobiographic nature of the story, what it was like for Burke to play someone so arrogant and manipulative, the process of casting Swinton-Byrne as Julie, what the Sundance debut meant for the Souvenir sequel, and so much more. You can hear about it all in the video interview at the top of this article. And if you need it, there’s a breakdown of the full conversation below.
I’d also like to take a moment to give special thanks to our Collider Studio partner, the all new 2020 Kia Telluride, which was transporting filmmakers to our studio in celebration of the debut of the all new model, Kia’s first eight-passenger SUV that is several inches longer and wider than the brand’s award-winning Sorento.
Libations were also flowing at the Collider Studio with parties hosted by LIFEWTR, Tequila Comisario, Sensi Tuscany Wines, Blue Moon Belgian White and Dragonfly Coffee Roasters. Food during the parties was provided by Greene St. Kitchen of Palms Casino Resort lead by Chef Du Cuisine Lanny Chin. Brand partners active during the day included mou, a luxury footwear and accessories line, and The Wild Immersion endorsed by Jane Goodall who was on-site with the world’s first “virtual reserve.”
Joanna Hogg & Tom Burke:
- What is The Souvenir about?
- This is a semi-autobiographical film for Hogg. What inspired her to tell her story this way?
- How much did the script change from the very beginning to the finished film?
- Burke on his well-developed but destructive character.
- What prep material does Hogg like to have in hand on set?
- They actually shot most of the film in one place.
- “The more limits, the more creative you can be.” – Hogg
- Burke on the beauty of working with a director who isn’t heavily reliant on close-ups; the importance of body language.
- Working with Honor Swinton-Byrne and why Hogg was confident she’d be perfect for Julie even though this marks her first leading role.
- How Honor’s mother, Tilda Swinton, paved the way to Honor’s casting.
- Burke on what it’s like watching himself in a film.
- What it’s like screening The Souvenir knowing that the sequel is scheduled to shoot this summer.
- A brief tease of what’s to come in The Souvenir 2.
Here’s the official Sundance description of The Souvenir:
Between script pitches and camera setups, Julie hosts a film-school cohort party where she meets a mysterious man named Anthony. A few days later, Anthony invites Julie to a grand hotel and asks to stay with her for a few days. Thus begins Julie’s first serious love affair. Ignoring her friends and borrowing large amounts of money from her parents, Julie surrenders to the relationship and prioritizes Anthony’s needs.
Set in the ’80s and based on writer/director Joanna Hogg’s real-life experiences, The Souvenir elegantly elevates quotidian moments into a story of unforgettable love. The intensely naturalistic dialogue hints at the characters’ disquietude and vulnerability as they slowly unravel. Though the film features an outstanding supporting cast—including Tilda Swinton and Richard Ayoade—it’s Honor Swinton-Byrne’s breakout performance as Julie that embodies the film’s core: a woman grappling with separating fact from fiction as her ambitions are jeopardized by her first real romance.