​​Last Night in Soho (2021) – Reel Review

Director: Edgar Wright | 1h 58mins | Thriller, Mystery

Young fashion designer Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) moves from Cornwall to study at the University of the Arts, London. After taking a bedsit, she begins to dream of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an up and coming nightclub singer, and the unexpected past of the sixties turns their dreams into a nightmare.

Those familiar with Edgar Wright’s filmography will likely have noticed his knack for homages and references to older cinema, his love for the industry clearly coming through in almost everything he makes – and his newest film (co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, most recently of 2019’s 1917 fame) Last Night in Soho is likely his boldest of the homages yet, touching on many films and genres, and even a touch of giallo cinema by the end.

Thomasin McKenzie plays the genuine but innocent Eloise, moving from the most rural Cornwall to study fashion in London, never truly over the suicide of her mother when she was young, Eloise still see’s her to this day in the mirror stood behind and watching. It’s not so much of a haunting but more a gift, as her Grandma Peggy puts it (played by a cheery Rita Tushingham). Ellie is a lover of the 60’s, from the music to the aesthetic, as well as her mother, and was the only one of the pair to make the move to London. Once there though, it’s less welcoming than she expected, and quickly moves from student dorms after a few incidents with her flat and course mates.

Lucky for her though, she finds a room free in a building much better suited to her liking, the landlady Ms Collins (Diana Rigg in her final performance) even lived through the times Ellie is nostalgic about, but is far more unkind about the time. Whilst she sleeps there, she’s transported back to 1966 and starts to live a nocturnal life almost vicariously through Sandie, and the best performance of the film from Anya Taylor-Joy. Her wannabe singing career seems to be off to a good start when she meets smooth talking Jack (Matt Smith), but is taken aback by the steps she might have to go to achieve her dream of making it big.

Though this is definitely some of Wright’s best direction, it’s also quite a chaotic film – some will love this, some will loathe it.

Though this doesn’t take us far into the film, anymore would be considered spoiler territory, as much of the enjoyment of the film is unravelling the story as we follow Ellie trying to find her way in a city much larger than her whilst Sandie starts to lose hers, the effects of which are not just in her dreams but spilling over into Ellie’s reality too. These aspects of the best of Wright’s direction though, as within the dreams you’ll see Sandie walking down the stairs but the reflection is Ellie watching her, other moments are far from this simple but all work beautifully to create a surreal aspect to every sequence.

Though this is definitely some of Wright’s best direction, it’s also quite a chaotic film – some will love this, some will loathe it. The first half has the pacing and kinetic energy you’d expect from Wright, the pace matching every song chosen from the 60’s that litters the soundtrack. When things start to progress however, everything becomes quite hectic and grows increasingly difficult to keep up – if you can though, it’s a wildly enjoyable ride. Ellie’s tenuousness and innocence is the perfect mirror to Sandie’s brazen confidence, and as the story progresses we feel them creeping closer as the city takes hold.

The frenzied nature – though enjoyable – can be overwhelming at times, and though this feels intentional it doesn’t mean it always hits the mark. This is magnified further towards the end, as the message seems a little lost in the deepest of horror spirals and a smorgasbord of so-so CGI. It certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but even the most critical Wright fans can agree he’s becoming braver and stronger in his craft.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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