Friday Film – Venice 2021: Last Night in Soho

Venice 2021: Last Night in Soho
Rehna Azim
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Terence Stamp, Thomasin McKenzie, Diana Rigg

This film had me at the trailer. It was just perfect. It was like the trailers of old which showed you enough to entice you into wanting to see the film but didn’t give away the important parts of the plot. So, I was really eager to see it at the Venice film festival. Unfortunately, it kept clashing with other films I needed to see and so, at one point, I thought I may miss it. However, I managed to get the very last seat in a screening just before I left for the airport to return to London. It was meant to be! And I loved it! It deserves to be a huge hit and I hope it does well around the world.

Summary : An intoxicating psychological horror roller coaster ride and love letter to the 60s set to a stonking soundtrack. 

Imagine diving headlong into a human sized Champagne Flute, laced with an LSD tablet and swirling around in the heady mix under the thousand splintered sparkle of a disco ball, allto the sounds of Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark and Cilla Black. 
Of course, don’t try it at home, kids. Just imagine it. And as your imagination runs wild you’ll get some idea of how intoxicatingly cool, head trippy, vibrant and plain enjoyable Edgar Wright’s new film is.
Part psychological thriller, part slasher movie, part zombie movie, part coming-of-age movie, part loveletter to the 60s movie, part social commentary battle of the sexes movie, part The sixth sense, I see dead people, movie, part time travel movie, part Single White Female identity appropriateion movie , Last Night in Soho is the fabulous sum total of all its scintillating parts.
Oh, and it will leave you with the most gloriously infectious earworm you’ve ever had, for days afterwards. 
Did it deserve its 5 minute standing ovation at Venice?

You bet! 

From the opening scene of an exuberant Thomasin McKenzie as wannabe fashion designer, Eloise Turner, dancing around her home in one of her own creationsto Cilla Black, the film hooks you into a psychedelic journey that will leave you as joyfully spent at the end as a 3 year old after a whole day’s sugar rush. 
Turner is a fiercely ambitious but unworldly girl living in Redruth, Cornwall, who dreams of making it big in London. Her grandmother, Rita Tushingham, is supportive but cautions her against the city. “London can be a lot,” she warns ominously. It may well be too much for someone like Eloise who sees things that others don’t. Specifically she sees the image of her mother who took her own life when Eloise was a child. But Eloise is determined and when the London College of Fashion offers her a place, she takes off in pursuit of fame and acclaim. 
In the big smoke, lumbered with the roommate from hell, Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen)who has discarded her surname because that’s what future megastars do, Eloise decides that pub crawls and bitching in the ladies toilets isn’t for her. She decides to rent a top floor room from a kindly old lady, Miss Collins (the late Diana Rigg to whom the film is dedicated). The room hasn’t been changed since the 1960s. ‘You can take it or leave it,’ huffs Miss Collins unapologetically. Eloise takes it. She loves it.
It turns out to be her gateway to the London of the swinging 60s, an era Eloise loves and wishes she could have lived in. From it she is transported, each night, to a bold and bright life that is everything she has ever wanted. On her first trip back in time she encounters the breathtakingly sassy and sexy vamp Sandie (an incandescent Anya Taylor-Joy) a wannabe singer with a voice as seductive as rich velvet, a wardrobe to die for, a stinging line in put downs and a burning ambition to make it big. Eloise watches Sandie attract the attention of Jack (Matt Smith)a wide boy know it all who takes her under his professional wing and into his arms. While Eloise can see Sandie, the latter is unaware of the girl from the future.
The achingly cool Sandie is everything Eloise could never hope to be. She becomes both idol and alter ego for Eloise. When Eloise returns back to the present day she begins to scour the retro fashion shops for clothes like those that Sandy wears. The designs she works on in class are inspired by Sandie’s outfits. She even dyes her hair the same blonde and starts to use Sandie’s one liners in her real life. 
Anya Taylor-Joy is simply mesmerising as Sandie. With her Brigitte Bardot bouffant coral pink tent dress and sultry long limbed moves, if she hadn’t already established herself as one of the most exciting talents around, this would have been as captivating a screen debut as that of Cameron Diaz in The Mask or Ursula Andress in Doctor No. (Apparently George Miller cast her as a young Furiosa film after seeing a rough cut of the film).

At first Eloise is in rapture at the new world she has discovered. Then it all starts to get very unpleasant. The technicolour dream soon develops into a nightmare she becomes desperate to escape. In the present she starts to be pursued by a hollow eyed Terence Stamp, a relic of the 60s, in every sense. At night, in Sandie’s world Jack, the charming boyfriend turns out to be pimp wanting to sell Sandie to the highest bidder. Worst of all, there is murder in the air. Are Eloise and Sandie now one, so that if one is killed the other will die too? 
Yes, Wright ramps up the hysteria as the film develops and what starts as psychological terror turns into a grisly free for all horror. But my goodness is it fun!

Anya Taylor-Joy at the Venice Film Festival