Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Thomasin Mackenzie, Anya Taylor Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Diana Rigg, Terrence Stamp, Rita Tushingham, Sam Claflin Genre: Psychological horror
Country / Language: UK / English
Duration: 1 hr 39 min
Release date: November 10, 2021
‘Last Night In Soho’ is an exquisite neo-noir drama that interrogates the past – and our idea of it – while simultaneously being a good popcorn-crunching entertainment.
Thomasin Mackenzie (from ‘Jojo Rabbit’) plays the mousy heroine Ellie Turner. Ellie lives in the English countryside with her grandmother (the legendary Rita Tushingham known for some classic 60s British films such as ‘A Taste of Honey’) and is haunted by the image of her dead mother. It is pretty clear from the start that Ellie is sensitive to the supernatural and feels energies that other people don’t. And she is in thrall of the glamorous era of the Swinging Sixties London.
The young and innocent Ellie goes to London to study fashion design at the esteemed London College of Fashion and moves into the old lodge owned by the elderly Alexandra Collins. And when she goes to bed she has vivid dreams of being Sandra (Anya Taylor-Joy, ‘The Queen’s Gambit’), a young and pretty blonde girl in her silky dress who has dreams of stardom.
These dream scenes are shot with marvellous, mouth-watering sparkle and glamour. The sets and costumes are exquisite and emotionally stimulating. Director Edgar Wright (‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Baby Driver’) captures impressively the atmosphere of 60s London where a huge billboard of the James Bond film ‘Thunderball’ is hung, people hustle and bustle in the streets, jazzy music plays loudly, and cigarette-smoking, cocktail drinking customers hang out at restaurants and bars. Added to this is the smoky air and what we get is a charismatic city ripe for drama, mystery and intrigue. London, in fact, seems to play a character of its own in this psychological thriller.
Without giving much away, one can say that ‘Last Night In Soho’ keeps playing with the audience’s minds, making us guess whether the horrifying actions and nightmarish imagery we see are all in Ellie’s mind or are indeed real.
Another winning aspect of the film is the message it has for young people who are infatuated with the glamour of the past. All is not perfect in the 60s as Ellie’s dreams/insight into the past become more disturbing when she gets exposed to the dark and sleazy underbelly of the city. Crimes, lies and sexual exploitation of women are all rampant in this not-so-wonderful hub. Ellie’s deteriorating mental health can be seen as a reference to young and sensitive people today who feel empathy at an intense level for those who underwent oppression and violence in the past. The actions of the past can often be so heinous that they continue to haunt the more emotional and perceptive people today and that is what ‘Soho’ tries to get at.
‘Last Night In Soho’ is a pleasingly exquisite entertainer with eye popping colours, dresses, lights and music. Wright seems to revel in the aesthetics of the past and we are invited to join him on this sensorial adventure. Mackenzie is a revelation as Ellie, playing out her stumbling health and steadily growing anxiety quite impressively. And Taylor-Joy is a marvel as always. With her impenetrable expression she delivers an uncanny performance. The rising star can appear starry eyed at one point and a spirit of vengeance on the other. And Wright plays with many film influences with this picture such as Dario Argento’s bloody, women-in-peril pictures such as ‘Suspiria’ and ‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage’. It is most visible with the blood-red fluorescent lighting that falls on Mackenzie and Taylor-Joy’s soft pale faces. This is notably the first film by Wright with a female protagonist. The director seems to be rather fond of his heroines, giving them the best shots and dialogue, and the permission to go bonkers.
We also get a cameo from 60s film veteran Terrence Stamp (known for ‘Poor Cow’ and ‘Teorema’), as well as a sinister turn from Matt Smith (‘The Crown’, ‘Dr. Who’) who plays the shady manager, Jack.
For all the drama and thrills, however, ‘Last Night In Soho’ lacks the rip-roaring comedy that Wright has come to be known for since he directed his ‘Three Flavour Cornetto’ trilogy. ‘Soho’ may not be perfect or even one of Wright’s bests (which is difficult considering every film he made is a crowd-pleasing watch as well as awards-grabbing). But it is a welcome entry into Wright’s filmography and a stylish, visually ravishing choice to revisit on Halloween nights.
‘Last Night In Soho’ is currently playing in theatres.
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