CINEMA REVIEW: LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by: Edgar Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Produced by: Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Edgar Wright
Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, Rita Tushingham, etc.
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Edgar Wright is one of my favourite directors working today. His films possess an endless series of cinematic techniques such: long takes, quick cuts, swooping camera moves, canted frames, Steadicam, camera holds, frame switches, pans, scans, tilts, low-angles, metronomic editing, blurred dissolves, point-of-view and god’s-eye view shots. Moreover, Wright’s use of humour, music, colour, casting choices, and cross-genre collisions are spectacularly imaginative and entertaining. His latest film Last Night in Soho (2021) is no different. I was enthralled and excited throughout this ripping big-budget exploitation film, which juxtaposes influences such as Stephen King, Brian DePalma and Doctor Who, with a suggestion of Dario Argento and giallo cinema.
Last Night in Soho (2021) is both a love and hate letter to the Soho area of central London in the 1960’s and the now. If hate is too strong a word then at the very least the myriad of storylines collide to create a cautionary tale of one young person’s move from Cornwall to London to study fashion at the University of Arts. Major acting talent Thomasin Mackenzie is Ellie Turner, a passionate young woman who loves the sixties music and style, but also mourns the loss of her mother at an early age. Leaving her comfortable home she shares with her Grandmother (Rita Tushingham), Ellie experiences London and student life with initially mixed results. Finding it difficult to connect with her obnoxious room-mate, Jocasta, she moves into an antiquated bedsit, with imperious Diana Rigg as her landlady no less. All of a sudden her incredible journey into the glamorous and seedy past of Soho begins.
As with many of his films Wright establishes several storylines simultaneously. He brilliantly crosses rites-of-passage with period drama, romance, musical, detective and finally the horror genre. Ellie finds her feet at University, gets a job in a bar, receives praise for her initial designs and starts a budding romance with fellow student, John (Michael Ajao). At the same time her life becomes entwined in a surreal twist with that of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an engaging character desiring showbiz stardom who happens to live in Soho, but in the 1960’s. Ellie’s psychic link with Sandie brings her vivid dreams, but a striking empathic connection.
While Ellie is nervous and insecure within her London experiences, Sandie is the opposite. The theme of duality in their polar characters is both emotionally and visually breathtaking as their twin journey brings positive change and developing confidence in Ellie’s character. Yet, when Sandie’s career desires are exploited for nefarious gain by a local face called Jack (Matt Smith), both woman head for darker spaces in the shadows and smoke of the capital. Here the issue of mental health is intriguingly explored too. As Ellie is drawn further into Sandie’s nightmarish existence, she struggles to hold on to reality and the present.
Despite some minor wrinkles in the narrative and geographical London liberties taken, Edgar Wright has delivered one of the most thrilling and spectacularly energetic films of the year. The nostalgic and heavenly soundtrack is to die for, with so many songs I recall growing up listening to. Likewise, the cinematography and lighting design sparkle in hues of black, fluorescence, shadow and neon. Sure, Edgar Wright has his cake and eats it with mild virtue signalling relating to the “Me Too” movement. The male gaze eats up Anya Taylor Joy’s stunning charisma on screen, making us complicit in her downfall. Nonetheless, with issues relating to grief, mental health, sexual exploitation, identity, doppelgängers, urban breakdown and many more all enveloped into a craftily structured plot, you won’t find a more breathless cinematic experience all year.
5 thoughts on “CINEMA REVIEW: LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)”
Hooray! I’m glad you like it. I rarely read reviews of films that I’m salivating to watch…I don’t want to be influenced by a negative review and miss out on an experience that I would, otherwise, enjoy. If I’m aware that a film has bad reviews–even mixed reviews–I’m liable to forgo it. Last Night in Soho is a film that I’m very interested in–though I know it may not be my cup of tea. It does not fit into my little niche of film fandom. The only Wright films that I’ve seen are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both of which I loved. I suspect “Last Night…” may be a lot like the film Mandy, for me, a film that I appreciate more than really like, but that’s okay; I don’t have to love a film to appreciate it’s greatness.
Fantastic review, BTW. Ha!
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Thanks for reading and the fine comments. If you liked Wright’s prior work you’ll enjoy his further move into darker territory.
LNIS is nothing like Mandy. That was true gonzo exploitation which took too long to get going nowhere fast. Way style over content. The violence and gore and visuals and Cage were something else though.
LNIS is a brilliant genre film and destined to be one of my favourites of the year. Story and heart and scares in a wonderful style.
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Great post 🙂 I am a huge fan of Edgar Wright and this one was no exception. I do not know If I would rank Last Night in Soho as my number one greatest film of his, but as long as Wright keeps making excellent ones like this, I will be satisfied 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂
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Thanks John. While Last Night In Soho has humour, it’s arguably his most mature and darkest film to date. Appreciate your comments as usual 😊
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