The Souvenir – 5; Photograph – 7.5

Both these movies, which we saw back-to-back one afternoon, are primarily about a relationship: a callow and sneakily beautiful young woman falls in love with an older, more experienced and perhaps inappropriate man. Except one relationship is toxic, while the other is sweet. Needless to say, the latter movie, Photograph, is the enjoyable one.

The Souvenir moved with the pace and misdirection of Last Year at Marienbad. Maybe there weren’t dream sequences or movies-within-the-movie, but I never knew for sure what was going on. All I knew for sure was that the male love interest, “Anthony,” was thoroughly despicable, on the surface and below. Yes, we know love may be blind, but we still won’t enjoy its making a fool of someone, in this case the wonderful Honor Swinton Byrne. Hearing he had died of an overdose was the only happy moment of the two-hour slog.

By contrast – restoring our faith in movie-going – Photograph was easy to follow, with a plot you’ve seen many times before. The film admits as much when, in the last scene, the lovers walk out in the middle of a movie and the man says he knows how the story ends, even though he hasn’t seen that particular film before. We are left to wonder whether this story, against all odds, will have that predictable happy ending, but ultimately we don’t care. We like the characters so much – they are both so thoughtful, with just the right amount of spunk and a palpable connection – that if this flirtation turns out to be just one bright, shining moment in otherwise humdrum lives we are grateful to have shared it with them. Even India, for the moment, doesn’t seem quite so grim.

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