Director Edgar Wright (Baby Driver) has a knack for combining horror and humor. Last Night in Soho is by no means a comedy, but there are definitely some funny moments amidst the dazzling psychedelic horror. The film is fun, engaging, and a definite adrenaline boost as we bounce back and forth between present London and 1960s London. It was a good time at the movies once again during TIFF. Wright took me on a journey that was a blend of Haunting of Hill House, Midnight in Paris, and The Shining. I am here for every minute of it.
Last Night in Soho follows Eloise, a young woman in love with the ’60s who ventures from the English countryside to the big city of London to attend a prestigious fashion design school. As excited as she is to move to London and make friends, she quickly finds that she does not fit in well with the chic, designer-obsessed fashion students, so she moves from her dorm to a rented room in Soho. It’s more her speed and decor.
We quickly learn that something is different about Eloise. One night, real-life and dreams collide when she starts to live vicariously and borderline physically through Sandy, an aspiring singer living in 1966. Eloise loves every minute of her dreams, especially after meeting Jack, a smooth-talking talent manager ready to help Sandy achieve her dreams of becoming a singer. Eloise starts to come out of her shell a bit. But as her nighttime rendezvous intensify, pain and trauma turn her fantasies into nightmares.
Last Night in Soho stars Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit), Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit), Matt Smith (The Crown), Rita Tushingham (Doctor Zhivago), Michael Ajao (Attack the Block), Terence Stamp (The Limey), and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones). The film was co-written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917).
When the film first started and Thomasin McKenzie came on the screen, my first reaction was, what am I watching? McKenzie exudes innocence and naivety as Eloise while also stirring thoughts that something isn’t quite right with this girl. She played her role very well.
The character arc for Eliois is fascinating. Ironically, she is still not one I would like to spend more time with, as she comes off very dull. Still, it’s very believable in every moment. I absolutely adore Anya Taylor-Joy, and her role as Sandy is no exception. The confidence she exudes is mesmerizing. It’s no wonder Eloise wants whatever Sandy’s having. The two women are wonderfully paralleled in the film emotionally, physically, and mentally.
The other actors in the film, including the late Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan to veteran Terence Stamp and fan fave Matt Smith, give such great performances. You don’t know whether to root for them or be afraid of them. There are some weak links in the cast, but nothing that takes away from the story too much.
The music from Last Night in Soho became another character. Who can forget the eerie yet beautiful rendition of “Downtown” by Taylor-Joy in the trailer? That is just a glimpse of the amazing direction from Wright. The music elevates the story to another level. It enhances everyone’s performance. The music is based on sounds of the ’60s that were edgy and lyrical. The music scene was exciting. It’s everything that describes Last Night in Soho.
The music is one thing, but the time period that Eloise jumps back and forth to is also the ’60s. That era was a time when ideas surrounding sexuality became more liberalized and accepted. There is a definite commentary on the subject in the past and present. The ’60s encompassed movements in feminism and civil rights. There are moments in Last Night in Soho that speak to these themes. There is also some fun and iconic commentary on London. The film pokes fun at the big city, which is where a lot of that humor mentioned before comes in.
Last Night in Soho has an interesting foundation. For Eloise to meet Sand,y there has to be something wrong with her. It is never fully addressed, which makes it a true horror film. The absurd and the unusual are taken at face value with none of the characters really taking a deep dive into why or how. I would have liked more explanation. That’s where some of the plot holes exist. Is she a mutant, is she gifted, or does she have “the shine”?
Overall, Last Night in Soho is brilliant, thrilling, and so much fun. I know it’s weird to say a horror movie was fun, but I was on the edge of my seat, full of adrenaline. I laughed, I jumped, I coveted some clothing choices. It was an unsettling trip to the theater that I would make over and over again.
Last Night in Soho will be released by Universal Pictures and Focus Features on October 29, 2021.
For more of our reviews from TIFF check out the following:
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over