An almost perfect sequel on loss and art: NPR


Honor Swinton Byrne is an aspiring filmmaker who mourns the loss of her older lover in The Remembrance Part II.

Joss Barratt / A24

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Joss Barratt / A24

Honor Swinton Byrne is an aspiring filmmaker who mourns the loss of her older lover in The Remembrance Part II.

Joss Barratt / A24

It’s commonly believed that movie critics hate most sequels, although the truth is, we try to keep an open mind. A few months ago, I thought it was only fair to point out that the ninth Fast Furious the movie was not as bad as the eighth Fast Furious movie. And while I’m mixed on the latest adaptation of Dune, I’m as excited as anyone to Dune: part two.

What we don’t see often enough are talented filmmakers working outside the mainstream and telling intimate stories that span multiple films. Filmmakers like the brilliant Joanna Hogg, who crafted her semi-autobiographical drama Memory like a work in two parts.

I was a big fan of the first Memory, who introduced us to Hogg’s young alter ego, Julie Harte, a London film student played by splendid newcomer Honor Swinton Byrne. Set in the mid-1980s, it told the piercing tale of Julie’s tumultuous romance with Anthony, an older man who seduced her with his libertine charm and eventually died of a heroin addiction he tempted her. to hide.

Like the marvelous The Remembrance Part II opens, the wound from Anthony’s death is still raw. We see Julie crying at home with her parents, who don’t always know the right words to say, but still a deep source of love and comfort – especially her mother, played once again with grace. wonderful by Swinton Byrne’s famous real-life mom, Tilda Swinton.

A lot of The Remembrance Part II focuses on Julie’s decision to make some sort of cinematic memorial to Anthony as her thesis film. It’s an emotionally wrenching process, as Julie struggles to understand her vision and articulate it to her eager cast and crew.

But as Hogg makes clear, making a movie is hard enough even when you’re not tapping your own personal tragedy for material. It plunges us into the daily headaches of low-budget cinema: the script changes, the continuity errors, the tantrums on the set. I could have watched another full hour of these scenes, which make for a terrific behind-the-scenes comedy: while The Remembrance Part II is a sadder movie than its predecessor, it’s also, in some ways, a lighter movie. The funniest character is Patrick, Julie’s cocky and ambitious classmate, played by great performer and filmmaker Richard Ayoade.

You can guess Julie’s story ends on an upbeat note, as in real life, Hogg has directed acclaimed music videos, TV series, and several feature films that have brought her to this point in her career. But at some point you’re never quite sure where The Remembrance Part II Is ruled. Sounds fitting: it’s a film about the difficulties of dealing with loss and making art, and how there is no clear or easy way to go about it.

Swinton Byrne quietly bares the many layers of Julie’s grief and trauma: her loneliness, her desire for privacy and, finally, her determination to honor her lost love in the only way she knows.

I won’t say too much about the outcome of Julie’s film, except to note that Hogg has put together some movie vanity into a pretty wild movie that takes this drama to a new level of meta-invention. Hogg also finds a way to honor one of his early mentors, the great British experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman, who incidentally also often worked with Tilda Swinton.

Maybe it all sounds a little selfish, but The Remembrance Part II never feels cramped or solipsistic. It is a wonderfully generous film, with a sardonic tone but rich in discreet emotions. Hogg views her young self both critically and lovingly, and she shows instinctive fairness to all of her characters.

She is also extremely attentive to their appearance, speech and presentation: rather than exaggerating the big ’80s hair and obvious needle drop, aside from an exhilarating use of Eurythmics, she channels the contemporary ambience with exquisite subtlety.

The first one Memory didn’t draw huge crowds, and the audience for a sequel may turn out to be even smaller. But if you missed the first one, there’s no better time to stream it, in preparation for this wonderful follow-up. Together, they form something intensely personal and close to perfection – which isn’t to say I wouldn’t mind if Hogg decided to revisit these characters in the future.

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