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Review: Last Night in Soho (2021)

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Premise: Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), a student at the London College of Fashion, leases an apartment with a sordid history. She repeatedly dreams of a woman in the 1960s (Anya Taylor-Joy) who encountered misogyny and violence while trying to make a living as a singer.

What Works: Edgar Wright has distinguished himself as a filmmaker who is a master craftsman and Last Night in Soho has some of Wright’s most impressive technical showmanship. There are sequences in this movie that are stunning in their craft and execution especially in the editing and the choreography of the subject and the camera as well as the film’s use of sound. Wright is also a filmmaker whose movies often pay tribute to popular genres. Shaun of the Dead reflected Wright’s love of zombie pictures and Hot Fuzz played on the conventions of buddy-cop movies. With Last Night in Soho, Wright channels the styles of Italian giallo films such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Tenebre. Like those movies, Last Night in Soho is about a knife-wielding killer and it uses dramatic and impressionistic colors. But this film is more than an homage. Last Night in Soho is about the phenomenon of nostalgia and in that respect it is a subversive film. A lot of popular movies being produced at this moment are built on nostalgic appeals such as such as the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. Last Night in Soho has a less sanguine take on the past. Ellie, the film’s present-day protagonist, is fond of the styles of 1960’s London but when she’s transported there she finds it all much less amusing. This is also a film about misogyny and it connects the attitudes of the past with those of the present; the presentation may be different but the underlying attitudes are the same.

What Doesn’t: Last Night in Soho climaxes with an unexpected reveal. This twist is partially unexpected because it’s inconsistent with what we understood about these characters and the terms of the drama. In this case the twist feels as though it undercuts the integrity of the film; however, Last Night in Soho does lay down clues leading up to this moment and the reveal may play more naturally on a rewatch. The subversion of the sexual politics is daring but it may also alienate some viewers. For most of its running time, Last Night is Soho adheres to the #MeToo narrative but then ultimately deviates from it. That’s not necessarily a fault of the movie but it will impact the way it’s received.  The upset of expectation may cause viewers to reject the film.

Bottom Line: Last Night in Soho is an extraordinary exercise in filmmaking. It simultaneously draws upon the filmmaking of the past while also interrogating the values that those films signified and it does all that while telling an engrossing murder mystery.

Episode: #877 (November 7, 2021)