TIFF Review: 'Last Night in Soho' Muddles Its Great Idea Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Rita Tushingham, Michael Ajao, Synnøve Karlsen, Pauline McLynn, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg
Published Sep 16, 2021It feels like, the more technological we get, the more nostalgic we become for a simpler time. Add in some deliciously retro music and fashion and it becomes easy to dream about living in another era. In Last Night in Soho, director Edgar Wright grants this wish while tearing off the rose-tinted goggles we use to view the past.
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is a university-bound, 1960s-obsessed young woman headed to the big city. After struggling to fit in with her flatmates, Eloise moves out of the dorms and rents a room in the Soho district of London. She begins having vivid dreams about Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), a singer looking to make it big in 1966 London and, in the process, finds herself wrapped up in a life she despises. Eloise and Sandy become connected through an unexplained cosmic plane and their realities overlap in strange and mysterious ways.
Wright's world-building is one of the best in the game. The aesthetic details and intangible energy of the '60s comes surging through the screen, leaving audiences entranced in the world and wanting to stay in it as long as possible. And, of course, Wright complements the film with era-appropriate music, curating a soundtrack that's sure to shift some units on vinyl.
Where Last Night in Soho loses the plot is in its horror elements, as Wright leans in heavily to the psycho slasher genre. McKenzie, to her credit, does a good job riffing on this and delivers all the screams and wide-eyed gaze that befit the genre. Classic horror references from the '60s and '70s are scattered throughout, becoming a distraction in an otherwise great original idea for a movie.
This is Wright's first major departure from his usual action-comedy fare, and when you push through the excess, the story is very compelling. Last Night in Soho should please Wright's ardent army of fans, and for those of us on the fence, there's enough there to suggest that, one day, Wright might make his mark in horror as he's done in comedy.
The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 to 18. Get info about in-person and online screenings at the festival website. (Universal)