Last Night in Soho is a 2021 film written and directed by Edgar Wright, an English director that I admire a lot. I saw this latest film of his a week ago and I found it one of his better made and most original films, and once again you can tell that he has a great knowledge of great movies of the past and a certain desire to pay homage to them.
Let me start from the plot. Young Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) lives in the countryside with her grandmother (Rita Tushingam) and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. When she’s accepted by a London school she’s happy, even if the specter of her mother who committed suicide in London worries both her and her grandmother a little. In fact, Ellie literally sees her mother on multiple occasions, which immediately makes us question her mental health. Once in London, reality immediately turns out to be different from her dream, with her unbearable classmates (above all, Jocasta, played by Synnove Karlsen) who force her to go away and live alone. She finds a room in the house of an elderly lady (Diana Rigg, to whose memory the film is dedicated) and she begins to have strange visions of 1960s London…
The film thus begins almost as a comedy-drama, a sort of coming of age story of a girl obsessed with a passion for fashion and a desire to prove that she can overcome what proved fatal for her mother. Then, very gradually, the movie turns towards horror in a way that I didn’t expect at all (as always, I went to the cinema without any prior information about the film).
Ellie’s dreams that take her to fabulous 1960s London seen through the eyes of the beautiful and talented Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) are exceptional, and when dreams turn into nightmares they change the tone of the film entirely in a completely believable way. Finally, here’s a director who’s not afraid to talk about the past without the need to idealize it as everyone seems to want to do in the wake of this nostalgia effect that makes people regret not having lived through periods that… they don’t even know! Quite simply, in Wright’s 1960s’ London, most people had a shitty life just like in today’s London. This realization destroys Ellie, who grew up listening only to music of that period and with the desire to have lived back then.
Speaking of music, what a soundtrack! You could listen to the movie without seeing the images, even if it would be a shame because Wright (assisted by Chung-hoon Chung at the cinematography) has once again surpassed himself behind the camera. Here, he paid homage to a certain type of cinema, this time the horror of the seventies made great by directors such as Mario Bava, Dario Argento and Nicholas Roeg. All these green, red and blue lights are very reminiscent of Suspiria (1977), for example, as well as the choice of having a young female protagonist who goes through a series of misadventures. Having said that, you can also enjoy the film by ignoring all its cinematographic references, which in my opinion means that it’s just a tribute, not plagiarism or a mere nostalgia operation (see above).
And then Wright explored a theme very dear to me like that of the double (there’s a reason why I love Star Trek), with the parallels between Ellie and Sandy (and even Ellie and her mother) and a huge use of mirrors, there are mirrors everywhere in this film, and I don’t dare to imagine what a nightmare it was to shoot on sets like that (although in post production nowadays you can achieve the unthinkable).
In short, for me Last Night in Soho is a very successful film that even when it seems to settle on existing narrative clichés then overturns them. It also makes courageous choices like having the protagonist side with the person who wants to kill her because she knows the reasons behind the behavior of the latter. It’s a very feminine film, therefore, and naturally so, not to ride a trend or to respect the usual minority quotas of Disney and Marvel films. Compared to the director’s previous works, the pace is much less frenzied but the style is absolutely recognizable from the very first minute.
The only flaws I found in this film are minimal and have to do with small plot twists that I would have avoided (could Ellie not have asked someone in the pub for the name of the old man played by Terence Stamp? How could John, Michael Ajao, still want to go out with Ellie after the misadventure in the bedroom? Was the final explanation really necessary? I hate this type of explanations!). But nothing of that spoiled my experience, of course! I would recommend anyone to go and see Last Night in Soho, especially in a cinema to fully enjoy the music and images of London as splendid as it is cruel. Ciao!
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3 risposte a "Last Night in Soho: Movie Review"
Good review! I admire Wright for attempting this film. It’s very bold. There are a lot of positives here, which you point out – The music, the cinematography. The double (Doppelgänger) motif which is a staple of the psychological thriller genre…
However, the plot twist completely deflated my emotions, and my sympathies for every character. By the time the killer becomes the victim, I just didn’t know who to cheer for anymore.
At the risk of sounding misogynistic, I think the feminine spin might just be the reason This movie doesn’t work for me. But I’m not certain. I definitely need to see it again!
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Thank you, you’re very kind! You’re not the first to say that the finale/second part of the movie is inferior to the first one. Personally, I loved it all the way through, although I see why many were disappointed after the change of tone (and few things can match the gorgeous first part of the movie with its trip to 60s’ London!).
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