TL;DR – Well Last Night In Soho is a film that threatens to go off the rails at any moment yet somehow manages to hold on just by its fingertips
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene, but there are images during the credits
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – This film depicts scenes of abuse
Warning – This film features sequences with flashing lights
Last Night in Soho Review –
Some directors out there have built up such a strong reputation that you know you will be checking out their next film no matter the genre/tone/story. For me, one of those directors is Edgar Wright, who has never once bored me with one of his films. Indeed, we have already gotten his take on a talking-heads documentary this year with The Sparks Brothers, and I was not going to turn down the chance to see two new films from him in the one year. I will say that this is a film that is best seen with as little information as possible, so if you are intrigued, you may want to stop reading here.
So to set the scene, Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) lives in rural Cornwell but has always dreamed of being a major fashion designer in London. She is obsessed with the style of the 1960s and capturing that time in her work. It was good news for Ellie when she got accepted into the London College of Fashion; thus, she made the long trip into the big city. After some interesting interactions with her roommate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), Ellie moves into a bed/sit in Goodge Place being rented out by Ms Collins (Diana Rigg). This old lady had owned the property for decades. It is perfect for Ellie, but as she sleeps, she visits an apparition from the past, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a singer and dancer in 1960s London.
One of the first things you notice is how this might be both Edgar’s most visually restrained film and narratively one of his more experimental works. There are some of those visual flairs that you come to expect with his work, an excellent example of which is our opening introduction to Ellie. But there is more reserved pacing to the film’s editing flow [well, until the third act]. There is still visual storytelling that you see in all of Edgar’s movies and concise narrative development.
One area where you do see that experimentation is the use of reflections and glass. There is a duality between Ellie and Sandie that only increases when Ellie starts basing her appearance on her. The interplay between the two actors is one of the most fascinating parts of the film. It also works as an interesting experiment in how they pulled it off. Was it done in post-production with some excellent compositing? Or was it done in-camera with some clever editing? It is likely somewhere in the middle, but it was fun to postulate.
From a tone perspective, this is almost all over the place, as the film swings from wonder to horror in a moment. Part of this is because the film goes out of the way to establish specific rules as to how everything works, which is why it hits harder when the rules start slipping. This film does lean in on the psychological side of horror, which will not be for everyone, but for me, it mostly worked. However, there are some narrative issues that we will look at in a bit.
Indeed, a lot of this film works as well as it does because the cast is here for it. To begin with, I need to say that Diana Rigg captures every scene she is in. It is a welcome joy seeing that talent on show but also a bit sad as this will be her final film. Anya Taylor-Joy is captivating from the moment she appears on screen, capturing a moment in time. We see this world through Ellie’s eyes, which gives Thomasin McKenzie an unenviable task. But takes everything the film needs her to do in her stride. Also Matt Smith, oh boy, Matt Smith.
It is not a perfect film, but to discuss this, I need to talk about the plot, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. Through its exploration of the realities of nostalgia, Soho becomes a film that explores abuse, sexual exploitation, and depicts this in a very confronting manner. It goes right up to the line of being exploitative in its own right. For me, it does not cross that line, but it is so close that I would completely understand if you thought it did. As well as this, the film does not contextualise what it puts its main person of colour cast member through. It also ties up maybe a bit too neatly.
In the end, do we recommend Last Night in Soho? We … yes, but with a lot of conditions. This film delves into some very dark themes, and that is not going to be for everyone. It is also a film that threatens to go off the rails at any moment, and for a lot of people I know, it did for them. If you liked Last Night in Soho, I would recommend to you The Invisible Man.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Last Night in Soho
Directed by – Edgar Wright
Story by – Edgar Wright
Screenplay by – Edgar Wright & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Music by – Steven Price
Cinematography by – Chung-hoon Chung
Edited by – Paul Machliss
Production/Distribution Companies – Film4 Productions, Perfect World Pictures, Working Title Films, Complete Fiction Pictures, Focus Pictures & Universal Pictures
Starring – Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Sam Claflin, Rita Tushingham, Synnøve Karlsen, Jessie Mei Li, Kassius Nelson, Rebecca Harrod, Pauline McLynn, Alan Mahon, Michael Jibson, Lisa McGrillis, Margaret Nolan, Aimee Cassettari, Colin Mace, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Paul Brightwell, Terence Frisch, Jeanie Wishes, Andrew Bicknell & Al Roberts.
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 18; United States: R