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

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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

‘Dead Ringers’ Review: A Psychologically Visceral Tale of Symbiotic Horror

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Although many elements that have defined David Cronenberg’s earlier work are absent in Dead Ringers, it still nonetheless the film that I consider to be him at his best. While it may be more toned down in terms of the gore when you put it next to The Fly or Videodrome, Dead Ringers does not ever lose sight of the horror of bodily alterations and mutations that have created the images we love and recognize from his work: but what also comes forth is the film that I believe to be the king of venereal horror at his most psychologically complex. But even at his more restrained that same horror can still be felt on the inside, creating a beautifully tragic and terrifying tale.

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‘The Invisible Man’ Review: A Modern Spin on a Classic Horror Story with a Very Real Looming Fear

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Leigh Whannell’s spin on the classic H. G. Wells story initially started off as another entry in what was supposed to be Universal’s failed “Dark Universe,” which sought to bring together many of cinema’s most iconic horror monsters into their own shared universe. But after The Mummy had failed and said universe has only remained shelved ever since, Blumhouse took interest in reviving this project – turning it into a small-budget horror like all their most notable releases and what came forth from that is more than just a new contextualization of the Wells tale. The Invisible Man is every bit as terrifying as it can also be fun, but seeing what Whannell could do with the Wells classic to adapt it for a modern audience only further strengthens the film’s impact.

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‘The Platform’ Review: A Satire Most Likely to Ruin Your Meal

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Perhaps the best word of advice prior to watching The Platform would be to watch it without having eaten a huge meal before viewing it, because this isn’t so much a delicious film to leave sitting in your mind after the images that it shows you. This isn’t a film for those with a weak stomach but in how Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia would show you even the most disgusting aspects of humanity on the spot, The Platform already feels like a daring experiment too. In fact I have not quite seen a satire much like this, one that feels so unafraid to delve into the worst of humanity but also one that blends that perfectly with entertainment value in order to create a bizarrely disgusting delicacy.

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‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me’ Review: The Death of Innocence in a World of Blue

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NOTE: This is a revised review that best represents my current thoughts on the film as opposed to my previous review. You can read the original right here.

Twin Peaks is one of the most influential television series ever made but the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me has never enjoyed the same sort of acclaim – having been met with harsh reviews and also having flopped at the box office. I’m fairly biased in the favour of Twin Peaks as it is my favourite television series of all time but throughout the show you could always tell that Lynch had a particular love for the character of the deceased Laura Palmer. In fact, there are few people whose entire mystery has impacted an entire culture the same way that Laura Palmer has done so, and no one understands the effect her death has left upon many that same way David Lynch does. Yet few people knew her as a person too, which emphasizes the tragic beauty of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

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‘Saint Maud’ TIFF Review: A Paranoid, Horrifying Tale of Devotion from a Brilliant New Voice

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The debut feature film of Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a peculiar horror film of sorts but it’s one that works its way into your own mind before it taps into an area that only makes the experience feel all the more nerve-wrecking. It’s impressive enough noting that this is only a first feature film too, because Rose Glass already carries a distinctive approach to the genre that feels like the work of an established auteur. Akin to many other religious horror classics whether they go from William Friedkin’s The Exorcist or Ken Russell’s The Devils, Saint Maud finds itself ranking among the best of these sorts for a newer generation – and it only leaves me wondering what more can Rose Glass offer within the future.

 

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‘The Lighthouse’ TIFF Review: Robert Eggers’s Second Feature is Terrifying and Wholly Gorgeous

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The second feature film of director Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse isn’t the same sort of horror movie that one would expect following The Witch but it’s also every bit as terrifying for different reasons. Robert Eggers is quite a special talent for the horror genre to see today, not because he’s made horror films outside of the recognizable system but because of the measures he takes with making sure that you’re believing yourself to be in a different world entirely when watching his films. With his second feature film, Robert Eggers doesn’t simply make a perfect tribute to the classic era of horror films but it’s also every bit as beautiful too. Far more than just simply the talents of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson going up against one another, The Lighthouse is a chilling watch from start to finish – prepared to get under your skin and creep right out.

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‘Color Out of Space’ TIFF Review: Nicolas Cage Goes Wild in this Dazzling H. P. Lovecraft Take

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Horror auteur Richard Stanley’s first full-length directorial effort in twenty seven years since his firing from The Island of Dr. Moreau, Color Out of Space is possibly the best adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft to have graced the screen not to be directed by Stuart Gordon. There’s no better way to sum up what one can expect from an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft starring Nicolas Cage than to say it is one among his most beautiful looking films and even one of his most unhinged works to date. One can only set their expectations high up when seeing the possibilities of what a combination like Nicolas Cage and H. P. Lovecraft can bring out, but knowing what it is that Richard Stanley was able to bring to the screen with such a combination, the results are far beyond what one could ever comprehend. If there’s anything else worth noting, here’s hoping that we get to see Richard Stanley get to work behind the camera again far more often in the future.

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‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ Review: A Magically Harrowing Journey Into Mexico’s Drug Wars

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It was definitely an exciting moment to be catching up with one of my favourite directors, Guillermo Del Toro, that was attending for last night’s screening of Tigers Are Not Afraid. As for his testimony before the ceiling lights faded into darkness, Issa López has shown herself to be a promising voice for emerging Latin American filmmakers; myself included. And it was very apparent from the first few minutes that she carried those magical realist roots that Guillermo had followed along with his recent film, The Shape of Water. Let it be known that magic cannot keep us safe from these hapless vicissitudes and we should embrace it for what it is.

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‘Midsommar’ Review: Ari Aster Takes the Term “Date Movie” A Whole Other Level

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After Hereditary, Ari Aster was already signifying some promise coming along the way for his sophomore feature and with Midsommar, he does so much more than live up to the promise that was headed his way. In many ways it’s also far more experimental than his previous effort, given the larger scale he’s made to work with in this case but he comfortably adjusts to the greater scope of this project and maybe that might also mean he’s also putting himself at risk of becoming too caught up even in his own ambition. There are many ways you can describe where one’s expectations will land before seeing Midsommar, because Ari Aster’s style of horror will only ever remain as divisive as ever – and to say the least, Midsommar will only reaffirm how strongly one feels about his work on either end of the spectrum. Will it even matter what you think of Hereditary coming into this? Perhaps, but I feel like I can already see Ari Aster turning into a giant inside his own league with that and Midsommar on his belt.

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