Last Night in Soho TIFF Review: Edgar Wright’s Beautifully Crafted London Love Letter Bites More Than It Can Chew

✯✯✯

Not many filmmakers are as eager to show their own love of film through their own work like Edgar Wright can be. In Last Night in Soho, he moves away from comedy completely to make a horror film, yet also an obvious love letter to a city he’s stated that he had fallen in love with over the years. With that in mind, you can only expect that Last Night in Soho would be bound to become maybe Edgar Wright’s most ambitious feature to date, though the result isn’t always successful. Despite this, there’s still a lot worth loving about what Edgar Wright brings to the table in this journey back through London in the 1960’s.

A fitting note for the film to start can be found in Thomasin Mckenzie’s Eloise Turner dancing to Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love.” Her character is an ambitious fashion student, moving to London to pursue her studies, but in her new home she finds herself able to see a vision of London from the 1960’s, where she embodies a new persona. This new persona is none other than Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandy, an aspiring singer, whom Eloise idolizes – and forms the basis of her designs. To Eloise, the 1960’s was an era she evidently obsesses over, as shown from the film’s soundtrack, but the more she sees from Sandy’s perspective the dream she once thought of only reveals a terrifying history.

From looking at a trailer for Last Night in Soho, it’d be easy enough to assume that Edgar Wright would be getting his influence from the giallo films of Dario Argento and the like, but instead what I saw was a portrait of London owing more to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (both of which are among Edgar Wright’s favourite films). While Wright certainly is a filmmaker who knows how to make the most out of his influences, the core of his own works is one that seems somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, together with the work of Chung-hoon Chung (a regular cinematographer of South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook), what’s brought out from Last Night in Soho is among the most beautiful that an Edgar Wright film has looked.

There’s a lot that could be done with a premise of this sort, where an aspiring fashion designer travels back in time to see an era where she got her inspiration for what it really is. The horrifying reality of her own dreams is what in turn makes for an interesting turn for Edgar Wright in the long run, but with how Wright delivers on these scares, it leaves his message fumbling onward. As far as Wright’s films have gone, this might be the most he’s ever been able to embrace the gore but there’s only so much to go when talking about what Wright brings out in that regard. For as extreme as he can get with the infliction of violence and its cyclical and traumatic effect upon future generations, its message only finds itself muddled – both in its final moments and the framing of the film as a love letter to London in the 1960’s.

Edgar Wright has never been one to let down with the erratic nature of how his films are put together, although there came a point in Last Night in Soho where I feel like the film would have benefited from having that same energy felt in his Cornetto films. When watching Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead and the like, the core of those films feels so clear in how they are willing to engage with a familiar text yet felt subversive enough in a way that could only be attributed to Wright. But Last Night in Soho lacks that same punch. I say this in the sense that what the film turns into is nothing more than a generic ghost story about a cycle of violence that has targeted women, and exploited them, but to talk about how these moments are framed seems to leave behind an icky aftertaste – especially when talking how it all pays off in its twist ending. The images repeat, continuously torturing its lead character, but they leave little of substance.

I don’t wish to dwell so heavily on the negatives, though, because you’re bound to have fun with watching an Edgar Wright movie in some capacity. Wright brings out great work from both Thomasin Mckenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. But it’s worth noting that in their final performances, the late Margaret Nolan and Diana Rigg deliver with what little they have to show in here. But for as stacked as this cast was, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Matt Smith and Terence Stamp in their just as impactful roles. If anything, what you’re seeing out of them can be enough to leave you thrown off for the many surprises that come along the way. Wright brings the most out of his astoundingly stacked cast, and they all deliver.

It should not be any surprise that Last Night in Soho may turn out polarizing at the time of its wide release. For all the beautiful moments that Edgar Wright dedicates into creating this loving tribute to the city he loves, the message he delivers is one that feels quite messy. Yet maybe that was the goal, because it does its job at putting his viewers in an emotionally difficult spot, which is fitting when you consider Wright’s approach to its gender politics. Wright’s craft is as vibrant as it’s ever been since his collaborations with Simon Pegg, but perhaps his ideas don’t blend well with that aesthetic. I’m interested to see what comes in the near future for Edgar Wright with genre fare, even if my own reservations ultimately keep me from believing this is completely within the right step.


Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Focus Features.


Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright
Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Margaret Nolan, Diana Rigg
Release Date: October 29, 2021
Running Time: 116 minutes

‘1917’ Review: A Faceless, if Harrowing War Experience

✯✯✯

This WWI film directed by Sam Mendes is a visceral theatrical experience, one that feels ready to place you on the battlefield, whether you are ready or not. It’s also one that I was feeling skeptical about because it has also been way too long since I was last wowed by a mainstream war film from recent memory, but the idea that Sam Mendes were to make one to look as if it were in one continuous long take became the most intriguing selling point for me. And for every bit as it is the film’s main selling point, 1917 doesn’t seem to have all that much to offer beyond that. Which isn’t to say that the film is bad, but where it peaks in the technical department it seems to be lacking elsewhere.

Continue reading →

‘The Laundromat’ TIFF Review: Soderbergh’s Latest True Story Comedy is a Baffling Joke

✯✯✯

There came a point where Steven Soderbergh had announced an intention to retire from filmmaking yet it seemed all too clear that he couldn’t leave the medium. It was long-thought that his last theatrical feature film was going to be Side Effects, but he came back to the big screen with Logan Lucky four years later – which he soon followed with films that were shot entirely with the use of iPhones, Unsane and High Flying Bird. Knowing the sort of filmmaker that Soderbergh has established himself as over his prolific career, it’s only fitting that he made another film that takes down an entire system but even the results of what this could sound like turn out so much stranger than expected. As for whether or not the film is good, I’m still having trouble finding out the answer to that myself.

Continue reading →

‘Lucy in the Sky’ TIFF Review: Noah Hawley’s Directorial Debut Falls Short of the Diamonds

✯✯✯

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies, somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, Natalie Portman arrives with kaleidoscope eyes. Television legend Noah Hawley of Fargo and Legion promises as much with his feature film directorial debut, but even the thought of a film about a woman’s journey to outer space and back sounds too good to be true after fittingly being named for a Beatles song. Yet as Lucy rises up to the sky, you’re wondering where all the diamonds are, for Lucy in the Sky doesn’t shine as much as you’d want something that sounds like a jewel to do so. It isn’t a bad movie per se, but given the sort of potential that this could have been considering the talent involved, Lucy in the Sky should have been a diamond – but it just never quite gets to that level.

Continue reading →

‘Giant Little Ones’ Review: A Decent Queer Coming-of-age Drama With Little New Ground to Cover

✯✯✯

Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones is a coming-of-age film that tells a story of the fears of coming out of the closet and one that also explores the concept of sexual fluidity. While it’s commendable to see a film that embraces the fact that these concepts are not the binaries that society paints them out to be, Giant Little Ones also seems to feel a little bit lacking everywhere else. That’s not to say Giant Little Ones is bad, because it’s a fairly decent film on the whole but it seems to lack what would otherwise have made it a great film despite having all the ingredients that would have made one. For a film that has all the potential to create something greater or more meaningful for younger people still trying to form a better understanding of the spectrum upon which we find ourselves best feeling a sense of identification, it seems to feel so limited even in its scope – thus it never really sticks its own landing. It’s cute enough to warrant a single viewing, especially among younger viewers who are still coming to terms with understanding core aspects of their own sexual orientation, but it seems to struggle with finding the footing of its own.

Continue reading →

“Pokémon: Detective Pikachu” Review: Bizarre Charms Don’t Reach Their Peak But Remain Entertaining

✯✯✯

It’s only fitting enough for me to preface this review by stating this, I have been a lifelong Pokémon fan since childhood. But the old animated films have never aged well, which always disappointed me as someone who had been sticking so closely with the series with every new game that were to come out, so it always left me wondering how these films could fare if they were to be done in live action. With a universe of this scope having so much potential for so many more stories to be done based around the wonders of the Pokémon themselves, a comedic noir made to show its inspiration from films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit wouldn’t even be a bad start. To say the least, they’ve already managed to get everything about what made a world uniting humans and Pokémon so wonderful right from the surface, but there’s nothing about the story being told in Pokémon: Detective Pikachu that really feels as if it’s using up all the most of what this world can offer. It’s certainly not a bad way to start, because watching this as someone who has been a lifelong fan of the games it already gave me the urge to find my old games once again – though something still feels missing elsewhere.

Continue reading →

‘Aquaman’ Review: Working with Too Much Within Too Little

✯✯✯

There’s a lot about Aquaman that easily should have placed it above most other films from the DC Extended Universe, but even if that were the case it also shows how much they still have yet to overcome after starting off with a rather rocky note. In bringing the underwater superhero to the big screen, James Wan does the very best that he can in order to try and improve upon the rather rough introduction that we got from him through the halfway-completed Justice League but even the roughest patches of Aquaman still ended up reminding me of what held back Justice League from being as great as it could have been. Yet despite that, it’s also a case where the film’s weirdest moments also churn out some of the more fascinating aspects to come out from the film because it’s hard enough having any clear idea what’s going on, the least of what can be said when you have so much going on underwater with so much dramatic heft. You’re left wondering how much of this really is necessary, and how much actually means anything.

Continue reading →

Mary Poppins Returns but Brought Nothing New: A Review

✯✯✯

The original Mary Poppins is often recognized as the crowning live-action achievement of Walt Disney’s career, and is also most notable for being the only Disney production to earn a Best Picture nomination during his lifetime. But so fervent was author P. L. Travers’s dislike of the changes that Disney made to a story that she once created, we wouldn’t end up seeing another Mary Poppins film until much later. So it only leaves me wondering what can be pulled off with a belated sequel, 54 years later. But how exactly would such a long wait between the two films provide, especially when trying to reach out for a newer audience with Mary Poppins Returns? Trying to recapture the charm that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke have only ever made so distinctive would be one challenge, especially with trying to reach another audience, and Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda make the very best of it here. That alone could provide a lot for some viewers but I was only ever left wondering what else would be coming by in order to allow this story to feel so distinctive from its predecessor after so long.

Continue reading →

Zhang Yimou’s Shadow Takes Too Long Before Getting Exciting: TIFF Review

✯✯✯

Part of me really wants to love Shadow because of what I already know a director like Yimou is so good at, but at the same time I’ve found it so hard to get invested with his films lately because of how well I already feel I know by heart the templates that he’s sticking so closely with at this point. But despite all of this, I found so much to admire about Zhang Yimou’s film because it also happens to resemble everything that I’ve come to long about his more action-packed films from the early points of his career. Along with films like Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the way in which Zhang Yimou frames an action sequence in his own takes on the wuxia film with films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers have always been so compelling – but talking about what he crafts in the case of Shadow would already be another scenario. When talking the more recent of Zhang Yimou’s fare, this may arguably be his most violent in recent memory but there was a point to which I wondered how much of this even really was worth the effort.

Continue reading →

Olivier Assayas’s Non-Fiction is a Funny but Empty Comedy: TIFF Review

✯✯✯

Olivier Assayas is the sort of director whose films talk quite a lot but he’s also one to lose himself in that conversation, and Non-Fiction builds itself within that realm. Yet there’s also another level to which the films of Assayas can find themselves teetering between being as insightful as ever or outright self-indulgent. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of his work, for his ability to make the very most out of small conversations that happen within the heat of the moment already feels like enough to make for something entertaining – and while I’m not going to deny that Non-Fiction has its more entertaining moments, I ended up leaving with an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction over myself. It stings even more, because this still remains the Olivier Assayas that I’ve always loved – yet here I am torn between deciding whether this is where he feels worn out or maybe I’m the one being worn and alienated. But I think if there’s anything else that I can say about what I’ve learned about Assayas from the many films of his that I’ve watched, it would be that I’ve always admired him more as a writer than I did as a director.

Continue reading →