TIFF ’21 – Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night In Soho’ Is A Frightening Trip To The Sixties

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What happens when you mix fashion, the sixties and the paranormal? Well, Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller Last Night in Soho, of course. 

The film follows aspiring fashion designer Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) after she’s accepted into a prestigious fashion design school. Eloise’s grandmother, Peggy (Rita Tushingham), is happy to see her granddaughter living her dreams, however, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell Peggy is worried about Eloise moving to London by herself due to past traumatic events that happened within the family. While 

Eloise assures her grandmother things will be fine but once she arrives at her dorm, Eloise is quick to realize that perhaps she spoke too soon. Her roommate, Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), is a stuck-up bully and most of her classmates aren’t any better, except for John (Michael Ajao). Ellie realizes that what’s best for her happiness and sanity is to move out of the dorm, which she does as soon as she secures a room for rent posted by Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). 

Eloise loves all the ‘60s callbacks she finds in the home and as she falls asleep one night listening to her grandmother’s records from that era, she finds herself transported to the time she always wished to be in. She finds herself in the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who is quickly falling for Jack (Matt Smith). Although this all seems like a radical and psychedelic adventure, it takes a frightening and psychological turn with Eloise forgetting where she ends and where Sandie begins.

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Written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Last Night in Soho is a psychological horror unlike any I’ve seen in recent memory. Not only are the genuine moments of horror, but the true terror stems from the fact that the movie sheds light on the fact that there is no “perfect” time in history. Every decade is rife with a variety of issues that affect the lives of others in a myriad of ways. Although Eloise believes that the ‘60s is truly where she belongs, a few nights in the life of Sandie unveils this truth to her. Only now, Eloise cannot escape it. 

As part of every one of Sandie’s traumas, McKenzie and Taylor-Joy effortlessly blend together as one in Last Night in Soho. Both actresses are brilliant together and apart and much of what works within the film does so because of their phenomenal performances. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy do most of the heavy lifting, however, equally strong performances from their supporting cast including Ajao, Smith, and Rigg. The cast really makes the most of every single element they’re given to work with from the script and this is truly the film’s most successful and defining feature. It takes a very special cast to do what the actors in Last Night in Soho have done seemingly so effortlessly. 

That being said, I do wish that there was a little more care in terms of crafting the story which suffered from…well, let’s just say, choices were made. Without giving anything away, while I understood some choices were a means to calling out the decade that shaped Sandie’s life and painful past, there were two particular scenes set in the present that made me cringe. Many Black men are likely to be triggered by these scenes for obvious reasons and they’re the kind of scenes that leave you wondering, “What were they thinking?” Both scenes in reference have to do with Ajao’s John and honestly, despite Ajao doing a great job in the respective scenes, I ultimately wish he did not have to act them out at all. It’s very unfortunate because up until these scenes appeared in the film, I was all in and was enjoying myself.

Last Night in Soho is a film that could have been great, and while I did love it for the amazing moments such as the cast and characters, the dancing/mirror scene and the soundtrack (just to name a few of my favourite things), I hated that I was pulled out of all of these moments for these rather unseemly scenes toward the latter half of the film. Despite the movie being one of the ones I enjoyed most at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), especially the way it genuinely scared me, I cannot help but think about the scenes in question and wish they didn’t exist. If it weren’t for those particular parts, Last Night in Soho would have easily taken a spot in my top 10 films from the Canadian festival.

Last Night In Soho is currently playing in theatres.

by Britany Murphy

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