Friday, November 5, 2021

Last Night in Soho


Aspiring designer Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) receives a letter of admission to a prestigious fashion school in London, prompting her to move to the capital from the Cornish countryside, much to the worry of her grandmother who believes that the British capital could be too much. After all, her daughter, Ellie’s mother, also tried once, failed, and never got a second chance. But her granddaughter is a fighter. Despite the fact, she soon discovers that granny might be right all along. Moving out of her dorm to find her own place after getting bullied by her pretentious roommate, she finds herself in a bedsit in Goodge Place at the apartment of Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). Her evenings soon become a constant trip down memory lane as her vivid dreams transport her to 1960’s London through the point of view of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who is also new and adjusting to the cutthroat life in the big city.

This film is trippy AF. Having seen Malignant on HBO Max which had the same premise but leaning more on supernatural horror, I thought Last Night in Soho would find itself committing the same mistakes. But lo and behold, those two hours felt more like a modern Hitchcock suspense thriller, constantly making you guess what the hell must be happening here. It is that combination of mystery and the alluring draw of the swinging sixties that makes you yearn for more. It doesn’t hurt that they have a solid screenplay and an era-specific soundtrack that aids further in the suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps it also has something to do with the character on which the narrative is anchored. We have a young fan of the 60’s who serves as an unreliable narrator whose perspective becomes our own, taking us with her in her trippy journeys to the same place at a much different time. This arguably makes the nostalgia even stronger because it is reinforced by the character herself. The ambiguity also helps keep us guessing. Is she schizophrenic? Psychic? A liar? Can we really trust Ellie and her visions?

As for the acting, the tag team between McKenzie and Taylor-Joy is formidable enough to hold the entire narrative together, but it is the late Diana Rigg who steals the show in a way that only the late Diana Rigg knew how. While her exposure is limited compared to the other two, her character is pivotal to plot development and her performance, as usual, has just the right amount of that trademark Diana Rigg sass in it that makes you want to give her a standing ovation. It’s simply cathartic when all the pieces start falling into place, albeit a tad contrived. But whatever, we sure are amused.

I had my own set of expectations. After all, I really enjoyed Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. While I am not raving, I’d like to believe that those expectations have been met because the movie is simply a joyride throwing in clues and red herrings here and there to keep you thinking. The film also has a unique style of playing around with imagery that makes you feel as though you are watching a legit 60’s thriller that has been remastered for a more modern audience. If only it was in black and white and had an unknown cast, we probably would have been fooled.

All in all, Last Night in Soho is a decent thriller that banks on nostalgia and a good screenplay to come up with a compelling narrative. Add some air of mystery and you are all set for a surprisingly fun viewing experience.

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