WHAT I LIKED: Movies about girls acting "crazy," at the hands of a misogynistic world often get a bad wrap, so perhaps it's no surprise that Edgar Wright's latest movie 'Last Night in Soho,' isn't generally being received with the open arms that filmbros usually afford this director. It is after all a film about a schizophrenic fashion student called Ellie (Thomasin Mackenzie) who goes to London to make it big, only to be confronted by predatory men and toxic friends, and visions of herself in the shoes of a girl called Sandie (Anya Taylor Joy) in a very similar situation back in the 1960s. Through those, we see Sandie driven to darker and darker places by the men who used her, and then Ellie starts spiralling down with her as the pressures of that genuinely horrifying past and her own reality increasingly intensify and overlap.
That central concept is pretty clever, not least because you'll be hooked by the mystery of who Sandie is and how she connects to Ellie's reality, but mainly because it makes for a horrifying portrait of the ways women can be exploited at the hands of intense misogyny on their ways to success. That all starts in the brilliant sequence where Ellie first comes to London - perhaps the greatest and most accurate contemporary depiction of the intimidating British Capital that I've ever seen. She's immediately sexualised by a cab driver who seems to wait for her once she gets off, meets her narcissistic flatmate who slut-shames and drags Ellie down to make herself feel better, and encounters various predatory creeps of all ages on the streets of her first night out. Then that picture gets ten times worse back in Sandie's 60s shoes as she's sexualised at every turn and forced to flirt and sleep with guys to get herself the jobs she wants all whilst being labelled a "whore," for doing so. That's tough stuff to watch, and it's clever of Wright and his fellow screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns to lend many of those moments the obvious horror tropes that they do, as it realises some very real fears extremely viscerally.
But the film is smart enough not to just leave things there, as the two leads always remain stubbornly defiant despite their circumstances, and do - albeit through a relatively glib final twist that I don't wish to spoil - eventually come out as women variably in control of their own lives in the end rather than victims of the predatory world around them. Ellie's arc in particular in that respect is pretty moving, and that's also thanks to Mackenzie's incredible performance that so humanly translates her journey from terrified teen to empowered young woman - crucially one who didn't get there as a result of any of the aforementioned misogyny, but in spite of it.
That all ultimately makes for a thoroughly engaging concoction of real-world theme, character arc and mysterious plotting, but - though a departure from his usual kind of tone and subject matter - it would also be criminal not to mention the ever-snappy and captivating atmospheric style of Mr Wright. His short-scene edits against Jukebox soundtracks and creative sound effects buoy the whole thing along nicely, but they also crucially keep up the mystery and never undermine or shy away from the seriousness of what this story is really about.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I've seen some criticisms arguing that the film's depiction of women pushed to craziness at the hands of misogyny isn't all that profound or ground-breaking, but that doesn't diminish any of its impact. The only real issue is that the script does arguably use schizophrenia as a plot device, and that's a somewhat questionable choice...
VERDICT: 'Last Night in Soho,' sees misogyny turn dreams into nightmares for two mysteriously connected women trying to make it big in London, and that story - executed perfectly by all involved - makes for one of the best films of the year.