The trajectory of filmmaker Joanna Hogg's career has been a stately procession to prominence, an unhurried pace that matches the rhythms of her work. Hogg's breakthrough came in 2019, when Martin Scorsese executive produced her fourth theatrical feature, The Souvenir, after he stumbled upon her second, Archipelago. Before that, she had a difficult time getting a foothold on screens outside her native Britain. Maybe her films seemed too British to play abroad, in the same way that those of Yasujiro Ozu—one of her key influences—were deemed perhaps too Japanese to travel. At the same time, Hogg's lifelong ambivalence about British social realism put her on a rockier path than contemporaries like Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsay, who used the kitchen sink drama as a launching pad for their careers.
Beginning with The Souvenir, Hogg adopted a self-reflexive mode of storytelling. That film and its sequel told the loosely autobiographical story of Julie Harte, a film student in early '80s Britain trying to find an artistic voice without denying her life of privilege in a national cinema where art often examines hardships unknown to her. Julie was portrayed in both films by Honor Swinton Byrne, whose real-life mother, Tilda Swinton, stepped in to play Julie's supportive upper-class mother, Rosalind.