Last Night in Soho

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Last Night in Soho
dir Edgar Wright
scr Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
prd Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright
with Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Michael Ajao, Synnove Karlsen, Rita Tushingham, Elizabeth Berrington, Sam Claflin, Jessie Mei Li, Kassius Nelson
release US/UK 29.Oct.21
21/UK Focus 1h56

mckenzie rigg smith
london film fest

Is it streaming?

mckenzie and taylor-joy
A luridly over-the-top sensibility makes this crazed London drama compulsively watchable. And while it looks terrific, the film becomes rather exhausting in the way it depicts a young woman's struggle with madness. Filmmaker Edgar Wright pours style into each scene, skilfully using real locations to playfully mirror the present day with the swinging '60s. And the superb ensemble is fully committed to even the most outrageous moments.
Accepted into fashion school in London, Eloise (McKenzie) is thrilled to be able to both pursue her dream and follow in her late mother's footsteps. When the raucous life in the student halls becomes too much, she rents a room in Fitzrovia from Mrs Collins (Rigg). Then she begins dreaming about Sandy (Taylor-Joy), her 1960s alter-ego who is pursuing an ambition to become a glamorous Soho nightclub singer. Sandy meets Jack (Smith), a manager who reveals himself to be a demanding pimp. And the horror of Sandy's situation begins to send Eloise over the edge.
Shifting from a breezy coming-of-age vibe into full-on terror, the film's tone is so fluid that the story itself never is never able to click into place. This makes Eloise's rising histrionic panic feel increasingly exaggerated. Her fear is palpable, but her reactions are impossible to identify with. That said, the visual echoing between her and Sandy is inventively magical, as are links between other characters. And the evocation of the 1960s is simply gorgeous, from bustling streets to lively clubs, with accompanying music and of course fashion.

At the centre, McKenzie and Taylor-Joy are terrific as opposite sides of a coin, likeable and magnetic even as the confident Eloise and Sandy become crippled by self-doubt. But the film is stolen by the late, great Rigg as a faded grand dame. And Stamp also registers strongly as a shadowy denizen of Soho pubs who seems to be stalking Eloise. Smith and Ajao (as a fellow student and romantic interest) are both excellent, even if their connections to Sandy and Eloise, respectively, are undercooked.

The way the plot unravels as the film continues is both a strength and weakness. It makes watching it feel like a funfair ride, unpredictable and riotously scary as it takes sudden twists and turns. But it also leaves everything feeling artificial and a bit simplistic, never quite raising the emotional stakes to have an impact below the surface. This keeps it entertaining while it lasts, but nothing lingers later.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 9.Oct.21 lff

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall