TIFF: “Last Night in Soho” Review

-Allison McCulloch

116 mins. | UK | 2021

Director: Edgar Wright
Editor: Paul Machliss
Cinematographer: Chung-hoon Chung

London can be a lot.

Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a girl with special insight and a haunted past. Eloise’s grandmother (Rita Tushingham) is a dear, but Eloise can’t confide in her the horrors that she experiences, because she does not want to come across as a failure. Eloise dreams of being a fashion designer, but Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), a mean girl at school drives her to finds a place for let run by a strict landlady (Diana Rigg). The opening credits are touching with the “for Diana” dedication, as the actress passed away on September 10, 2020, from lung cancer.

When Eloise falls asleep at her newfound haven from Jocasta, she awakens to a lush 1960s London, filled with the music she adores and the fashion styles she longs to create. When she looks in the mirror, she sees “Sandy” (Anya Taylor-Joy), a glamorous wannabe singer who delivers Petula Clark’s “Downtown” during an audition at the Rialto with majesty and grace. However, just like in Mulholland Drive or even A Nightmare on Elm Street, Eloise’s dreams soon become nightmares.

The movie could have opened with a voice-over stating, “Last night I dreamed of Soho again” as it evokes the English novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier in many ways. It also has a feel like The Double Life of Véronique, as there are seemingly doubles and a search to discover one’s self. There’s a montage very similar to the one in Zola and perhaps the best tripping out scene since Midsommar. The newspaper dress that Eloise created evokes the trash dress in Cruella. Just like in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Eloise changes her hair to look like someone else: Sandy. Sandy’s influence over her starts to overwhelm her as she buys a white raincoat to resemble her even further, prompting a silver-haired customer (Terence Stamp) at the bar where she works to take a radical interest in her.

The editing makes the movie magical. The misogyny of the 1960s and the modern day catfighting provide lots of drama. Eloise’s sanity is constantly called into question, all because she sees things on a whole other level. As she searches for solid evidence to prove who Sandy really was, she finds that nothing is what it seems. Director Edgar Wright gives us an old-fashioned story with a modern spin in the horror genre, making it a masterpiece for me personally. It’s true that a lot of audience members were “expecting” something else. Just go in with no expectations. But maybe play a couple tracks by Cilla Black and Sandie Shaw beforehand to get you into the mood!

Rating: 10/10

Vegan alert:
Sandy plays a milkmaid in a show.

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