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Saturday, September 30, 2023

LFF 2021 Review: Last Night In Soho

Edgar Wright’s much-talked-about enigmatic Last Night In Soho (LNIS) has received the headline gala premiere at BFI London Film Festival 2021.

For sweet-natured, 1960s-obsessed Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), dreams really do come true when she gets accepted into fashion school in the bustling heart of London’s West End.

But big-city life proves a rude awakening for this small-town girl, and when her rowdy student halls become too much for her to take, she rents a room in the attic of the matriarchal Miss Collins (Diana Rigg, in her final film role).

That night, in her new bed, Eloise finds herself inexplicably transported back to 1966 and into the body of an ambitious young singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).

But just as she starts to get used to her nocturnal time travels, Eloise slowly begins to uncover the terrifying reality of swinging 60s London.

Many years ago, in films like Nightmare On Elm Street, the idea of fantasy blurred with reality and made way for some horrific situations.

LNIS begins as a love letter to London but as the film progresses, it turns out to expose the murky side to the city.

The 60s is a time of nostalgia, a revolutionary era politically and for its music too (which the film wonderfully tributes).

It is also the time period where the gruesome and shocking Moors murders took place.

With all this in mind and beneath Edgar’s glitzy set of old Soho, the nostalgic time is presented in a sinister way.

From the onset, Wright creates a mysterious yet ordinary atmosphere where the protagonist is a girl-next-door but with a special ‘gift’ (which sets the crux of the film).

Throughout the movie, the director drops various hints which ultimately make sense. Even using the constant flashing ‘red’ lights, foreshadow perils that are to follow.

His attention to detail and filmmaking vision is remarkable. Throughout the movie, mirrors are used as a symbolic curtain that barricades the gap between reality and fallacy.

It adds a sense of compulsion as we audiences silently witness what unfolds.

At times, the movie’s fantastical and noir quotients oddly (and unexpectedly) reminded me of Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om – especially during the climax portion.

Considering that Eloise is a polar opposite to Sandie’s persona, this mirror becomes a medium for her to introspect on her inhibitions and to an extent, the conflict of who she is versus who she wants to be.

In fact, both actors Thomasin and Anya do a brilliant job with their respective parts… Especially Anya.

Her glamorous and charming avatar sticks in the audience’s mind even after the credits roll.

Special mention goes to the late Diana Rigg, who plays an important role in the movie. She is a marvellous talent and sheer delight to watch on screen… A legend who will be dearly missed.

Another aspect which LNIS gets right is addressing societal conversations. There is a scene where Eloise sits in a cab and the driver makes concealed, unsolicited advances towards her, even stalking her.

In light of recent heinous murder cases against women, the film highlights some important topics. Given that the principal characters fight misogyny across two different decades, the social messages are subtle but definitely thought-provoking.

Cinematically, the movie is deliriously spectacular. However, I feel that the horror sequences become repetitive and the second half seems dragged out.

Tighter editing could have improved the overall cohesion of the film.

Also, there is a mention of Eloise’s mother and her tryst with London. More context on this would’ve allowed the viewer to resonate and empathise with the character more.

Having said that though, LNIS has the potential to leave a mark in one’s memory.

Next time I pass Goodge Place, I hope to see Sandie one day, roaming around under the sparkling lights of Soho.

⭐⭐⭐.5/5 (3.5/5 stars)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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