“Last Night in Soho” is one of the best examples of gorgeous cinematography in the last decade. Supported by an interesting plot and talented cast, this film starts strong but then loses steam halfway through, see-sawing between wonderful storytelling and awkward filmmaking. As a result, I left the theater with mixed feelings.
“Last Night in Soho” follows Eloise, a young woman who dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. Along with her eye for fashion, Eloise has another extraordinary ability: she is able to see the ghosts of the dead in her dreams. After moving to London to attend a fashion college in the Soho district, she starts having visions of the past through the eyes of Sandy, another young woman who lived in Soho during the ‘60s.
As Eloise becomes more attached to Sandy, she finds out the tragic and heartbreaking story surrounding her life and, more importantly, her murder. Trying to piece the clues together, Eloise tries to find justice for her long-deceased friend and arrest her killer who still lurks somewhere in the city.
The talent behind this film is staggering. Heading up the roster is renowned director Edgar Wright, who brought us films such as “Baby Driver” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Wright is incredibly skilled at crafting uniquely beautiful visuals that support the overarching stories of his films. The cast itself is very strong, boasting Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandy, Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise and Matt Smith as Jack. Thanks to their believable performances, the characters truly come alive and feel three-dimensional.
Director Edgar Wright talks to actress Anna Taylor-Joy on set; Wright’s strong sense for cinematography shines through in the film’s first half.
The cinematography is definitely the film’s strongest aspect, truly bringing you into the story. The “dreams” that Eloise has about Sandy’s life are delicately crafted, with Wright using brilliant visual cues to show how Eloise embodies Sandy during these flashbacks. For instance, Sandy walks down a set of stairs lined with mirrors, but it is Eloise we see in the place of Sandy’s reflection. We watch Sandy dance, but every time she goes behind her partner, Eloise emerges on the other side in her place, and vice versa. The framing and timing behind these shots are so complex, yet they create an entrancing atmosphere and never fail to impress.
Sadly, this masterful filmmaking slowly fades away as we enter the film’s second act. The shots begin to vary wildly in quality, either retaining the consistent beauty of the first half or being borderline unwatchable. There are some horrible effects during the murder scenes that feel like a film student’s first film project, not the product of a professional team of filmmakers. I was shocked at how the near-perfection of the movie’s first half had completely disappeared. While the story was still relatively strong, the cinematography switched from bolstering the plot to actively hindering it.
Throughout the film, some shots, like the one above, make masterful use of visual storytelling, while others feel amateurish or borderline unwatchable.
Additionally, some of the film’s content does warrant caution. Because the story focuses on the solving of a murder, there is some violence as well as some graphic depictions of abuse and exploitation. Specifically, Sandy is forced to become a prostitute, being beaten and then killed when she eventually resists. The nature of the situation means there is some slight sexual content, though nothing ever becomes incredibly explicit.
The film’s unexpected twist revives some of the life lost at the halfway point. It turns the entire plot on its head, forcing you to reanalyze everything that you have seen throughout. While strong, the twist can’t fully reclaim the momentum the film loses halfway in. I was rooting for it too, but I never regained my initial sense of excitement. This is why I left the theater feeling a myriad of mixed emotions.
This is a strong movie with an original plot and masterful craftsmanship in terms of its cinematography, acting, music and atmosphere. It breaks my heart that it trips over itself and kills its powerful momentum with a few simple mistakes. If I separate out the first half of this movie and judge it on its own merits, this is one of the best films of the decade. As a whole, however, “Last Night in Soho” is a slightly above-average thriller that disappoints more than it should.
“Last Night in Soho” is now in theaters.
Sam Acosta is a Junior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an A&E writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.