#LFF2021: Last Night in Soho – Review – ★★★★½
A genre-defying mashup of time-traveling, coming-of-age, psychological horror – an enjoyably thrilling joyride!
Thomasin McKenzie is Eloise, newly enrolled at the London School of Fashion and struggling to fit in with her obnoxious new roommate – London living, we’re reminded, is a far cry from life in rural Cornwall, where Eloise has grown up living with her grandmother.
Escaping her rowdy halls of residence, Eloise finds refuge in the top-floor bedsit let out by Diana Rigg’s curmudgeonly Miss Collins – a room to call her own, but also a nighttime portal to 60s Soho and the life of a confident, ambitious young singer called Sandy (The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy).
By day, Eloise slowly grows in confidence, her design skills catching the eye of her teachers, inspired by her dreamworld escapes to The Rialto as Sandy hooks up with slick Jack (Matt Smith) and takes to the stage. But Eloise – and the audience – is in for a rude awakening, as a third of the way through Last Night in Soho shifts in tone and genre. Suddenly, Sandy’s life appears less glamorous and more the stuff of nightmares, and the walls between Eloise’s waking and dream worlds begin to crumble.
To say too much more would be to spoil the thrill of a film which revels in twisting and shapeshifting before viewers’ eyes. Director Edgar Wright (the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Baby Driver) and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) have created an expectations-defying cinematic experience, and the cast are up to the challenge of selling it – even the tricksy, twisty finale.
Special mention must go to Rigg, who gives her final screen performance and makes the most of every moment on screen, and Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey) as Eloise’s increasingly concerned grandmother. Along with Terence Stamp (as the mysterious Silver Haired Gentleman propping up the bar at The Toucan), this is a trio of the finest actors of their generation giving the young guns a run for their money.
One final word for the soundtrack: of you don’t leave the cinema humming “You’re My World”, or “Downtown”, or any other of the clearly lovingly curated songs, you must be dead inside. The music is the un-billed “and featuring…” star of the show, effortlessly evoking the style and swagger but also the menace of 60s London. Truly irresistible.