At a house party in the 1980s, the Psychedelic Furs are playing and a young woman is listening to a man talk. Joanna Hogg’s personal film of quietly conflicted youth is one that rings true across class and age, but that specifically comments on the female experience on the cusp of adulthood. Julie is an aspiring filmmaker working through university to find her voice, both through her art and the simultaneously formative and straining relationship with a mysterious older man, Anthony.
The film shares its name with Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s late Baroque painting of a well-poised woman, leaning against a tree carving the letter S while a well-groomed dog looks on. Julie and Anthony are in the Wallace Collection, musing on what the work of art could mean. Honor Swinton Byrne (daughter of Tilda) makes her motion picture debut as the young woman, whose character stresses a willingness to learn and listen, to grow as an artist and as some kind of emotional stalwart. She thinks the woman in the painting looks sad.
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