Review of Last Night in Soho(Spoiler alert)
I went to watch Last Night in Soho because it’s Edgar Wright‘s film. The first of his films I watched was
Shaun of the Dead, I was impressed by the sarcasm told in a smart and hilarious way. And from this film, I start to notice the perfect teamwork of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. They certainly share the same tastes in dark humor and lame jokes.
I like his films a lot because of how he manages to make a comedy using camera languages. I remember how he shot the appearance of Shaun by moving the camera from the lazy moving feet of Shaun, which made him like a zombie but who appeared not to be when revealing the yawning face. In Hot Fuzz, the signature swift snappy editing in Hot Fuzz when Nicholas Angel moves from the big city to a small village. Even in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the way of wiping through from one scene to another or using absent-minded Scott’s face clearly shows he’s lost focus in his life.
Last Night in Soho’s a story of a young girl Eloise(played by Thomasin McKenzie) from the countryside. With a dream to become a top fashion designer, she went to London to study and experience spiritual events. She shared the life of a dead girl back in the 60s in her dream when she stayed in an antic of the rented old house. She was obsessed at the beginning and got inspiration from the vivid dreams, but then things went south, the girl in her dream was abused by men and almost murdered in the end.
Firstly the story is flimsy. I know, in a lot of his other films, the stories are flimsy too, rather absurd and because they are absurd, it doesn’t even need to be logical, because making sense of the story is not an important part of filmmaking anymore. (Who would try to make sense of a world full of zombies or blanks or exes who joined a league dedicated to stopping Stott to date a girl with purple-colored hair).
Last Night in Soho is a bit of something different. It’s not a film of absurdity. It is a horror film and a thriller, well, at least I think it’s supposed to be, partially. It is a serious film, it barely has anything funny, not even jokes. The first glance of the story is fine, I think I get the impression that the director wants to show how greedy, ignorant, and abusive white men in Soho could be back in the 60s, and it’s a tragedy, a beautiful woman like Sandie(played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who was so passionate about being a performer was bullied and abused almost to death, and this is a trigger for the leading actress to be more decisive to pursue her dream to become an extraordinary designer in her real life.
However, all the characters besides our lovely protagonist are lack background stories and motives for their actions. Firstly, Sandie, who was a beautiful girl who wants to be a performer. And, that’s it, the first appearance of her is about she wants to be a performer, the film didn’t say why she wants to be a performer nor how much effort she made. None of the background stories are told, she wants to be a performer, she met a guy Jack who seems to be an absolute gentleman and he made a promise. Sure, Anya Taylor is amazing enough, who needs any motives. Then Jack, who appeared to be a gentleman at the beginning and turned to be a total asshole who betrayed Sandie became the pimp and forced her to be a prostitute in the circle. It doesn’t matter why, neither any little of struggling he needs to have, he is the bad guy, and the bad guy does the bad things, that’s the explanation.
Back in the current time, in Ellie’s real life, she met a guy in school called John, and he’s the angel. He unconditionally loves Ellie and believes her even on their first date, regardless he got cut by broken glasses caused by hysterical Ellie who can’t tell what is real what is not. And even when he was almost got killed by the villain, all he thinks about is Ellie’s safety. So love is everything, and nobody needs to know why he loves her from the beginning to the end. The old lady Sandie(spoiler!!!), she didn’t die but murdered all the men who abused her. She wanted to kill Ellie one minute ago and the next minute she killed herself and lets Ellie go without any explanation. And many other supporting characters in the films can just be described with one-liners, such as Jocasta the bully roommate, the group of hateful male ghosts who turned out to be the victims.
The characters are so shallow and labeled, and it’s hard for the audience to believe and sympathize.
And as a thriller and horror film, it’s neither scary nor thrilling. The director is still using jump scares and men without faces to build the horror vibe, which is quite outdated even for me who don’t watch many horror films because I get scared quite easily.
Here are something I like about it.
The editing has its shining moment, different from his other films, not much of his signature fast wipes or dazzling cutting, but the scene when the first time Ellie became Sandie in her dream was impressive. The smooth transiting from one to the other and the shots with both girls in front of a wall of mirrors in the same scene indeed made the shots steamy and dreamy.
Anya Taylor is amazing, she has the charm to draw the audience into the film and she contributed a nice song, Downtown.
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
Possibly forget yourself too.
So the film is a bit like downtown, lively, crowded, busy, shinny, but sometimes could be mediocre and shallow.
Ps, last time when I visited Soho in London, I was with a couple of friends in a pub drinking beer. With the crisp winter air, it is a lovely memory of downtown. At the ending of the film, along with the credit, there are some static photos of Soho that were shown, it’s nice when I can still recognize some of the places.