Honor Swinton-Byrne, Tilda’s Daughter, Is Sundance’s Breakout Star

Her acclaimed next movie will costar Robert Pattinson.

2019 Sundance Film Festival - "The Souvenir" Premiere
Sonia Recchia

At this point, we’re pretty used to, if not increasingly bored of, the children of the rich and famous popping up in an attempt to create a public profile for themselves by simply scoring a front row seat at a fashion show. From there they can squeeze a few years of party invites and perhaps even a fashion campaign off of their good looks and VIP heritage alone. It happens all the time. We suppose that route was always going to be an option for the offspring of Tilda Swinton, a particular favorite of the art and fashion scenes. Yet, wouldn’t we expect a little bit more out Swinton’s kids?

Well, Swinton’s 21-year-old daughter, Honor Swinton-Byrne, has decided to forgo the easy fame and prove herself as an actress first. That patience looks to be paying off now. With her first major role, in Joanna Hogg’s film The Souvenir, Swinton-Byrne may just be the most lauded newcomer at this year’s Sundance Film Festival so far. After premiering last night, the film has a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with particular praise being heaped upon Swinton-Byrne.

Vanity Fair got right to the point, declaring it “the best movie at Sundance this year” in the headline of its review, noting that the young Swinton-Byrne “makes a fine film debut, bringing to mind the mellow mettle of Vicky Krieps in Phantom Thread.” Variety writes that she “beautifully plays a formless woman at varying stages of self-awareness.” The Hollywood Reporter calls Swinton-Byrne’s performance “remarkably layered.”

This is not cherry-picked praise. Martin Scorsese is an executive producer of The Souvenir; A24, perhaps the hottest indie distributor of the moment, has already snapped up the film; and not only has a part two already been swiftly announced, but Robert Pattinson has signed on to play Swinton-Byrne’s love interest in it.

PARK CITY, UT – JANUARY 28: Honor Swinton-Byrne of ‘The Souvenir’ attends The IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village on location at The 2019 Sundance Film Festival – Day 4 on January 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

Rich Polk

All the more impressive, considering that this wasn’t a particularly easy role for any actress to take on as their leading lady debut. In The Souvenir, Swinton-Byrne plays a semi-autobiographical version of the director herself, named Julie. She’s a film student in the ’80s who is forced to confront the privileges of her moneyed upbringing, as well as the misogyny she faces as a female artist, while at the same time having her desire awakened by a troubled young man who may not be entirely what he seems. Oh, right, Tilda herself also appears as the character’s cold mother.

Hogg (who obviously is also getting some of the best notices of her career) does have a track record for spotting promising young talent early. Indeed, the Marvel cinematic universe should perhaps be sending her flowers for the rest of her life considering how she basically discovered Tom Hiddleston (his only two pre-Loki film roles were with Hogg as director).

Swinton-Byrne, whose father is the noted playwright and artist John Byrne, only has one previous onscreen credit, from 10 years ago as a child in her mother’s film I Am Love. Tilda Swinton has otherwise managed to keep her kids, including Honor’s twin brother, Xavier, out of the spotlight (perhaps because certain English tabloids took a perverse pleasure in spreading rumors about their upbringing) and raised them in the Scottish highlands. Though, we assume with such a warmly received acting debut, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Honor in the future. (As for her brother? Well, Swinton once said he wanted to be a commercial airline pilot.)

No theatrical release date has been set for The Souvenir just yet, but we’re sure with all the buzz you’ll hear about it when it happens.

Related: Tilda Swinton Transforms Again, Into the Legendary Eccentric Edith Sitwell