Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) lost her mother when she was only seven years old: her mother, a fashion designer, suffered from mental illness and eventually committed suicide. Little Ellie was raised by her grandmother Peggy (Rita Tushingham), with whom Eloise lived in a rural house. Ellie also wants to become a fashion designer and she is very passionate about music, fashion and life in the swinging sixties – London of the corresponding era, when this city seemed to be the center of the whole world.
Ellie is accepted into the London College of Fashion, and she travels from her rural wilderness to the capital, where she settles in a hostel. But there, London itself met the girl very unfriendly, and the snobbish zoomers and zoomers from the hostel treated this redneck extremely arrogantly. Ellie has a particularly difficult relationship with her roommate Jocasta (Syunneve Carlsen).
Unable to bear all this common life and not wanting to join the local fun, Ellie rents a room in the apartment of an elderly Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg) and moves there from the hostel.
On the very first night, when Ellie falls asleep to her favorite music from the sixties, which is played from a vinyl record (the girl brought a collection of vinyl with her), she is transported to those very swinging sixties – there Ellie watches a very self-confident and spectacular blonde starlet Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is determined to take over Soho.
Sandy arrives at the famous Café de Paris, where she intends to meet the owner to be hired as a singer, and there she meets tough guy Jack (Matt Smith), who becomes her manager.
However, neither Sandy nor Ellie know yet that the girl will have to conquer Soho in a completely different way than she painted in her dreams.
Edgar Wright is a very extraordinary director who gave us the Three Tastes of Cornetto trilogy, which includes such wonderful films with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as “Zombie named Shaun”, “Like hard cops” and “Armageddian”. He also shot the picture “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”, which initially performed rather modestly at the box office, but later became somewhat cult.
All of these films parodied certain genres along with their clichés and were filled with great humor. Also, Wright, as a music lover and a movie fan with great experience, perfectly selected music for his films and often included various cool references to famous films of the past, and this did not have the character of exclusively cute “Easter eggs”, but was very skillfully woven into the plot, with him completely harmonizing.
The first bell rang when, in 2017, this director released the crime thriller Baby Driver. The expectations of the audience were high, but the reality turned out to be somehow not quite all right. Yes, the choice of music there was still wonderful, the action was rigidly lined up to the music, and it looked very, very impressive, but from a scenario point of view, everything was rather weak and indistinct there, and the main character – as usual with Wright, a handsome nerd – was so unremarkable that it was not clear why he was awarded this honorary title at all. But a film without a main character is not a film at all, any movie fan (the same Wright) will tell you, even if you wake him up in the middle of the night.
With “Last Night in Soho” (by the way, this is the title of a Ken Howard and Alan Blakely song that topped the charts in 1968, and as the title of the film it was suggested to Wright by Quentin Tarantino, as far as I read), things got even weirder. The fact that now this director has a protagonist – a girl (or rather, two girls from different time periods) already raises certain questions, and, of course, not at all because girls cannot be the main characters.
It is simply obvious that Ellie is partially copied from the director himself: Edgar himself once came to London from a small town, he lived in the capital in Soho, Wright was very fond of the sixties, music and films of the sixties, and it was he, in fact, who was redneck in the bohemian world of the pretentious capital.
Even more strange is that from a genre point of view, the picture pretty much wobbles from side to side. The beginning is reminiscent of a whole bunch of films – a pretty provincial comes to conquer the capital, while facing the rudeness, arrogance, snobbery and hypocrisy of people in this city and trying to somehow hide from this in her dreams of a completely different time.
When she gets into these sixties, there generally begins such a visual and staged riot (in the most positive sense of the word) that I already thought – that’s it, Wright has finally made a masterpiece! And so it went on until about the middle of the film, but after that the picture suddenly veered towards, so to speak, abuse, gaslighting and victimblaming (the cat Bublik asked me to use these words, but in fact I have no idea what they are, generally speaking , mean), and then out of all this, for some reason, he popped the most real horror (“What, Edgar, are you serious?!! Horror?” – we cried with the cat Bagel), and this, in our opinion, is concrete ruined the whole movie.
Moreover, with the horror, Wright could no longer keep himself within any reasonable limits, so by the end he made such a move with his knight that the character of Anya Taylor-Joy did not really survive, because such an endgame is simply not expected.
And if we watched the first half of the film with great pleasure, then from the second half a strong surprise began to gradually increase in us, and by the end we realized that Wright’s picture simply did not work out. Because if earlier Wright played and parodied some genres, and all of them were excellent for him – zombie, youth comedy, police detective, a story about growing up and non-science fiction – now for some reason he got into horror and it is clearly visible that it’s really not his! And within the framework of horror, for almost the first time in a film by this director, a direct quotation of Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” (I won’t say in which scene, so as not to spoil it) looks, frankly, somewhat cheap and forced, but Wright did not allow himself this before. .
A declaration of love for the sixties (and the director has repeatedly said in interviews that he really adores this era), an absolutely gorgeous display of these sixties, at the same time showing the unsightly underside of these sixties – why not, only here it’s not very clear what exactly the artist wanted to say with his picture.
In an interview, he says that there is no need to romanticize the past, that every beautiful era has its own bottom. You can’t argue with this, but absolutely any era has its second bottom, and Wright himself clearly shows that the problems that were encountered in the sixties have not disappeared even today: during the girl’s arrival in London, we are shown this nasty London taxi driver making remarks that terribly strain and frighten Ellie, also this whole story with the hostel and the attitude of some hostel residents towards the girl.
The fact that in the film he seems to start a conversation on important topics – about how young girls were looked at in that era and what they had to deal with – but at the same time, Wright himself suddenly starts to reduce everything to some kind of stupid horror , – it somehow greatly devalues this important conversation.
And although I believe that the statements of some critics that, they say, Edgar Wright in this film just tried to cling to the agenda, are untenable, because, firstly, he conceived this film ten years ago, and secondly, for all the ugliness of some manifestations of all this “new ethics”, “cancellation culture” and all that, it cannot be said that these problems never existed and that they do not exist now, and these problems require that we talk about them and somehow to decide – the way it’s all staged does not demonstrate the director’s intention to really talk seriously about these topics: rather, he just uses it all in order to make an eyeliner to a rather weak and helpless horror.
And Bublik and I are very, very sorry that this interesting and beloved director of this film turned out just like that. Because if it was a specific crap, then there would be no questions. But here the first half of the film is really well done! Gorgeous recreations of the sixties, great references to various films of the sixties that the director knows intimately, a lot of simply impressive production decisions: Ellie’s introduction to the sixties, as she sees Sandy through the mirror, an absolutely masterpiece choreographed – from all points of view – the dance of Sandy, Ellie and Jack, and it’s all filmed live, there are only two cuts (I later reviewed this dance three times), – well, damn it, we talked with the cat Bagel, finally Wright still shot his masterpiece!
But I read how difficult it all was to remove! London’s Soho is the part of the city that never sleeps. To make this area completely depopulated is beyond the power of filmmakers, no one will give permission for this. This could only be done by a virus invisible to the eye, which was either synthesized in a Chinese laboratory, or some Chinese ate another rat and made the whole world happy, making it go crazy – we still don’t know exactly what happened there. But the film is just showing these deserted streets of Soho during the British lockdown.
(By the way, the same legendary club Café de Paris, in which the action takes place in the film, existed until 2020, but could not survive all these lockdowns and was eventually closed.)
The director had to shoot some scenes literally in secret: without getting permission and without blocking the streets. In particular, the scene where college students walk through the night streets of Soho was filmed with a camera hidden in rickshaw taxis, which are not uncommon in this area of the city. So passers-by in the frame are not extras at all, but ordinary people walking around Soho.
In general, in the end, the cat Bagel and I did not understand at all why it was all done this way. To hell with a completely original and bright director, who is able to dissect various genres and perfectly parody them, quite seriously climb into a genre that he obviously doesn’t succeed with, we don’t know. However, of course, everyone has the right to make mistakes! It’s just a shame, because the first half of the film is very good: some episodes are staged simply masterpieces, music, as usual, is brilliantly chosen, all references to films of the past, especially films of the sixties, are made perfectly – well, with the exception of horror references – and after to get this as an output?
Alas, Edgar Wright buried his film with his own hands, along with skeletons, in cabinets and walls of houses. And this is a pity, because it could have turned out to be a masterpiece.
Last Night in Soho review
Director: Edgar Wright Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, Rita Tushingham, Aimee Cassettari, Colin Mays, Michael Adjao, Sunneve Carlsen
Thriller, UK, 2021, 116 min.