TIFF 2021: ‘Last Night in Soho’—Stylish yet Clumsy

After a successful milieu of comedic films (and an action), director Edgar Wright now dips his toes in psychological horror. Last Night in Soho is Wright’s first try with the subgenre, a film set in the beloved titular London district known for being the center of entertainment.

Soho follows Elle (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer recently accepted into a London fashion school. She is in love with all things 60s, and it is obvious she doesn’t belong in the present with her love of the past. When she moves into an eerie flat managed by an old lady (Diana Rigg), her life starts to intertwine with Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a blonde bombshell trying to make it as a singer in 1966 London. What follows is a film with a confusing plot that cannot decide how to present itself.

Wright is one of the most influential directors working today, with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World now a cult favourite and his hilarious Cornetto Trilogy that became instant classics. Last Night in Soho could have echoed the success of these films had Wright not stumbled with the screenplay. Wright makes the confusing mistake of trying to frame Ellie as Sandie but eventually, she is revealed as just a mere spectator.

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Sandie and Matt Smith as Jack. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features

Once it finally established a point of view, the film gets interesting. Who is this Sandie that we’re witnessing with Ellie? What happens to her? As the screenplay explores their separate lives, the film sadly gets clunkier by the second act.

Disregarding the mess of a plot that Wright, together with 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, built, the film still has its charms. An ensemble cast tries to redeem an awkward screenplay with their charming portrayals, especially Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie, and a scary performance from Matt Smith as Jack. Thomasin McKenzie balances the innocence and insanity of Ellie as she continues to uncover what happened to Sandie.

The visuals of Chung Chung-hoon, a frequent collaborator of Park Chan-wook, suit Wright’s style with the flare of London during the swinging sixties. This, along with the beautiful production design and wardrobe, is an engaging element that truly encapsulates the era. And with the time period it focuses on, Soho never runs short on amazing soundtracks throughout the film.

Despite its stylishness and amazing performances, Soho fails to satisfy plot-wise. It will surely find an audience that loves it despite its flaws, but it is far from Wright’s best film. Maybe Wright should go back to his comedic roots before going out of his way to make another horror.

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