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Last Night in Soho TIFF Review

★★★★

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Written by: Edgar Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg

Film Review by Robert Stayte

 


 

To quote the introducer of the TIFF showing of this film, Edgar Wright needs no introduction. Post-Cornetto trilogy he has gone in a much more genre embracing direction. Baby Driver was both a conventional and unconventional action car-based crime thriller. His latest is similarly one that embraces convention and does something new, this time with an old-fashioned tribute to classic horror that is bonkers yet incredibly gripping.

Cornwall resident Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) goes to London to do a College Fashion Degree, having grown up influenced by 1960’s culture. After entering a residence owned by Miss Collins (Diana Rigg), she starts to have dreams of a past resident named Sandy (Anya Taylor Joy), who was a talented singer taken in by Paul (Matt Smith). Dream and reality start to merge and Eloise soon discovers the terrifying truth hidden in the past.

The direction from Edgar Wright is probably the flashiest of his career, which is saying something. Despite an initial slow build-up, the film eventually becomes louder and more aggressive, culminating in a third act that’ll probably be too intense for some audiences. But it’s both beautifully composed and energetic, not to mention enlivened by a great soundtrack and immersive sound design. He even pulls off jump scares and dream sequences, two elements that many horror directors have mishandled in the past.

This film also serves as a nice Spiritual Successor to Wright’s Cornetto entry The World’s End, in that both are fundamentally critiquing nostalgia. This film embraces it more, especially with the pitch perfect period detail, but it shows that the past is something to not be adored and instead to be accepted for what it was. Also, the fact that this is Wright’s first film to be co-written by a woman (Krysty Wilson-Cairns) is very clear, as both the past and the present are shown to be full of misogyny, which ties into the main story heavily. It’s a tough subject to execute well, but they just about manage to do it.

Character and performance wise, Wright once again writes and directs a great set. Eloise is a well-drawn and sympathetic lead and Sandy is a character full of mystery that soon turns out to be rather complicated. Thomasin McKensie delivers probably her best acting to date, nailing the emotional turmoil her character goes through and being totally lovable. A creepy Terrence Stamp and Diana Rigg probably steal the show, the latter given a fitting final role.

Flaw wise, the film can admittedly be too bombastic for its own good and overall, it’s the only one of Wright’s films that could have done with tightening. The third act does feel overlong and doesn’t quite keep up momentum. There are also occasions where the film lost me, but typically it won me back through a surprise reveal (of which there are a few).

Last Night in Soho might be a little overambitious, but it is another win for Wright’s great string of successes. It’s a fun watch for horror fans and general audiences will most likely come away with something to love.

 

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