Sometimes, when I read the “prominent” film critics who all seem to live in one of those intellectual timeshares on Mt.Olympus, I feel like the skinny kid with glasses, acne and a stutter, left out on the ball field when the jocks start assembling teams.

If you’re one of those viewers who hang on the words and reputations of the cinema chatting class, Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir” is for you.

An example: A.O. Scott of the New York Times says of Hogg’s film, “It’s an absolute joy to watch.”

Anne Cohen of Refinery 29 says, “I can’t wait for the sequel.”

And it has won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival award. So there.

This film seems to have touched the souls of the more prominent cinema scribes. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and I’m not surprised. Sadly, I seem to have escaped prominence, but here in the piney woods I’m all you’ve got. I won’t ask you to trust me. Go see it and make up your own mind. But remember, I told you that Moxie tasted like shoe polish and you didn’t listen.

I’m sure most of the critics and their followers were drawn to this slow dance by the presence of the very strange but funny Tilda Swinton, of whom I’m a big fan.

Tilda, if you follow her career, is a mystical chameleon who can pop up in anything, anywhere and as anyone. Sometimes you won’t know she’s there until the credits. Sadly, Tilda appears here in a tiny conventional role in her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne’s film. The housemaid in The Marx Brother’s “Room Service” had more screen time than Tilda.

Perhaps she appeared in the film to give a boost to her daughter’s career?

Daughter Honor, who by the way is not bad on her first real role, tries her hand as Julie, a London film student.

Somewhere along the beginning of the movie, (I don’t recall exactly where because he’s just suddenly there) she falls under the spell of an older non-student Anthony (Tom Burke), a whispering, emotional, bi-sexual scam artist, natty junkie and pusher, who mumbles at the bottom of his voice and who is given to sashaying around in David Hockney bow ties and retro Noel Coward loungewear.

The romance is totally implausible, because any hip, London working girl of the era would have chucked this lout out on his ear early on.

Cinematographer David Raedeker wastes his camera on multiple foggy views that seem to be shot through someone’s borrowed prescription glasses and murky night scenes seemingly lifted from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 “The Lodger.”

And then there are the strange unexplained sequences that simply wash away without explanations: Julie hears a rumpus upstairs in her apartment and finds Anthony moaning and crying, with his underwear covered in blood. No explanation offered.
Julie comes home to find their apartment has been robbed and Anthony beside himself. A bit later, he mumbles a confession. She forgives him.

At one point, Julie comes home to find a strange tattooed man in the house and orders him out.

Julie follows a trail of notes up to their bedroom when an explosion is heard on the street, and no one seems to check it out.

As usual, greater minds in the media are split. Many love it, others find it boring, tedious and pretentious.

But then again, I am the skinny kid with glasses who grew up on better stuff.

J.P.  Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.


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