FILM REVIEW: Last Night in Soho (LFF 2021)

Rating: ★★★★

Edgar Wright’s latest film Last Night in Soho was unsurprisingly one of the most highly anticipated films of London Film Festival 2021, to the point where I was willing to get up at 5:30am just so I could be in the queue on time. I know, the things I do for filmmakers right?

Most well known for his Cornetto Trilogy films (consisting of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), Wright has certainly made a name for himself when it comes to British filmmaking. Not only are his scripts bloody hilarious, but he manages to splice this infectious British humour with other genres such as horror, crime and sci-fi to create films that people will still be quoting years later. But due to the success of these films it’s hardly surprising that people expect big things when it comes to his next projects.

Last Night in Soho follows aspiring fashion designer Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) who decides to travel from her rural hometown to study in London, which is inevitably a big culture shock for her as it is for anyone who decides to take the plunge and move to a new place. It’s even harder for Eloise as she’s not exactly a typical cool girl, frequently wearing clothing she made herself and escaping into fantasies where she’s this big name designer she’s always dreamed of being.

As well as having her head in the clouds, she also favours the 60s and it’s this era that influences a lot of her designs, and the music she chooses to listen to. As I’m sure you can imagine, a lot of work has gone into the retro soundtrack and it is definitely a highlight of the film.

Eloise’s first impressions of London aren’t great, and it definitely addresses the ‘expectations vs reality’ situation one might experience after making a big life decision. London looks great on paper but after encountering a rather creepy cab driver and meeting her bitchy new flatmates, she soon realises she’s a fish out of water. But she doesn’t let these negative experiences stop her, and instead rents a top floor room from a local landlady instead, where she starts to feel much more comfortable… at first.

Not long after Eloise moves into her new home, she starts seeing another woman in a vision, which is triggered through her vanity mirror. This isn’t the first time she’s had these visions as she often sees her late mother, so she’s not too taken aback by it. Despite being jarring for the audience, these experiences are normal for Eloise. She learns that the woman in question is Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer living in the 60s. So it’s hardly surprising that Eloise becomes obsessed with her, wanting to live vicariously through her as often as possible, learning more and more about who this glamorous young woman is. It is soon revealed that she meets Jack (Matt Smith), a club promoter, and the two start a romance.

That’s about all I can tell you regarding the plot, as this film is best experienced knowing as little as possible about the details. It certainly makes for an interesting story though and Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are both brilliant in their respective leading roles; Eloise is sweet and likeable, and Sandie is cool, confident and simply captivating to watch. Both performances are brilliant and I’d consider them to be career highs.

The cast is elevated by the supporting members too, in particular Eloise’s classmate John (Michael Ajao) who has the best lines and jokes in the entire film, you’ll know it when you see it. He’s such a fun presence in the film and is intensely likeable, but not only that, he’s a familiar face from one of Wright’s previous films as he played Mayhem in Attack the Block 10 years ago which is a very lovely touch! In addition to this, seeing Dame Diana Rigg in her final role was also bittersweet as she delivers a great performance but it’s certainly sad knowing it’s her last. Still, how amazing to see her in a film like this one.

Last Night in Soho was marketed as a horror film, and it’s definitely the scariest thing that Edgar Wright has ever done. There’s some really effective jumpscares throughout as well as some gory moments, and he does all these while still sticking to his signature style. It’s clear this is a Wright film from a mile off but there’s still some wonderful horror elements that fans of the genre will enjoy. It was fun seeing him really go in on the horror genre, we’ve seen it before with Shaun of the Dead but that was more parody, here there’s some seriously horrific moments and it proves he’s capable of doing both styles.

There’s no denying the fact this film will divide audiences, I’ve spoken with some who found the third act a little disappointing, but for me it really worked and I genuinely think I loved every minute of Last Night in Soho. It’s a unique film and addresses plenty of relatable topics, and on top of this it was fun to then walk the same streets where it was filmed moments after I left the cinema. This feels like Edgar Wright’s love letter to Soho, while also acknowledging the problems you may encounter once you strip away the glamour of it all.

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