Last Night In Soho
This is our second Edge Wright film in two weeks and is one of those films that audiences like better than the critics did (90% compared to 75% on Rotten Tomatoes). However the Guardian placed it at number 47 on its top 50 films of 2021 and it has won nominations and awards at critics’ award ceremonies, including recent BAFTA nominations for Best British Film and Best Sound. Wright directed cult movies Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Baby Driver as well as the documentary we showed in February, The Sparks Brothers. It is also the second of our films this month that revisits the Sixties and fashion. Eloise, an aspiring designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
A connection with the dead is implied from the very beginning, but it’s unclear if it’s an interactive memory or an actual spirit, and the main character knows as little as the viewers. Is Eloise seeing ghosts no one else can, or is she stirring up echoes by giving them substance? The answer lies somewhere between Poltergeist’s Carol Anne and ParaNorman, but it feels new in Wright’s capable hands. Striking an unusual balance between crime and punishment while questioning comeuppance, Eloise and Sandie need an impossible solution to reach a satisfying end: a never-was relationship that will always be.
Taylor-Joy’s Sandie is a confident muse whose happiness infects others, everything McKenzie’s Eloise lacks but is willing to learn. Early scenes swapping characters dancing with the same man are seamlessly choreographed, favoring practical effects over CGI as if the two were a single person. As the transference between the two women progresses, you can feel Sandie reaching out as she begins to slip away while Eloise tries in vain to save a shadow. Michael Ajao provides a friend in the real world when Eloise needs one the most, and Terence Stamp contributes in a surprising role that will have folks guessing.
Soho combines elements of a haunted house tale, a classic ghost story, and a mystery half a century in the making, but the emotional connection is the film’s core. Wright’s work always includes strong relationships — it shouldn’t be a surprise how well this works — but having the central buddy element as two women bonding across time may be his most believable yet, and that’s saying something.
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(111 seats remaining)
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Venue: William Loveless Hall