Last Night In Soho - New Release Review
Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Dame Diana Rigg
Written by: Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park, Edgar Wright
Cinematography by: Chung-hoon Chung
Original Score by: Steven Price
An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.
The year is 2021 and the era of 80s nostalgia is finally coming to an end. No more terrible clothing throwbacks or saying things like “Y’know, I think A-Ha were underrated”. Now we are in the era of 90s nostalgia where teens think Fila sneakers are cool again and people are now saying “Y’know, I think Chumbawamba were misunderstood.” It’s a weird cycle we are in, but it’s nothing new. Outsiders have always looked back to the past when our modern-day zeitgeists don’t feed our needs. The true danger with looking back at the past is the glorification of things. This is the overall theme of Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night In Soho’.
In ‘Last Night In Soho’, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) moves to London to follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. After falling out with her new (terrible) roommates, Eloise moves into her own flat in Soho. She soon finds herself reliving the nightlife tales of the previous tenant, Sandy (Anya Taylor Joy), through her dreams. The allure of the 60s glitz and glamour soon falls to the side as Eloise discovers the true, dark underbelly of 1960s London.
This isn't the same Wright that brought us the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, for better or worse, but this is probably Edgar’s most mature film. Taking inspiration from Italian horror directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Wright delivers this “be careful what you wish for” story soaked in the glow of a red, blue and green neon light. Some Wright fans might find the slower pace of the storytelling quite jarring, especially compared to the smash cut editing styles of the ‘The World’s End’ or ‘Hot Fuzz’. Wright takes his time to set up Eloise’s character, her relationship with fashion and how she’s different from all the other girls in her class. Thomasin McKenzie immediately lights up the screen and her character is very likeable and relatable. McKenzie has been making a name for herself recently, starring in 2019’s ‘Jojo Rabbit’ directed by Taika Waititi and M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Old’. In this film she has the difficult job of carrying the whole movie, and for the most part, she succeeds.
Anya Taylor-Joy plays our 1960s Gogo girl Sandy, and as always Joy is a JOY to watch. Her character is a good representation of how fame hungry girls were treated back then. Matt Smith plays her sleazy manager Jack, and for the little bit of screen time he has, he does a fantastic job. Smith may have been getting the short stick when it comes to acting roles post ‘Doctor Who’, but it’s great to see him here being able to flex his comedic and sinister sides. Dame Diana Rigg gives her last ever performance as Eloise’s landlady. Diana sadly passed away late last year, but this role definitely showcases her acting abilities and she easily has the best performance in the movie.
The film’s soundtrack is perfect. From Dusty Springfield to The Kinks and even an a cappella version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” hauntingly sung by Taylor-Joy. We also get a SURPRISE SURPRISE appearance from Cilla Black in the movie (not the real one obviously, she’s dead). The score by Steven Price is also excellent, and it was a definite highlight of the third act.
Speaking of the third act, the twists and turns of the movie are ultimately predictable. They aren’t terrible and don’t ruin the story, but it does make the second act feel like a lot of running about for nothing. There’re a few subplots that could have easily been cut to streamline the story and get it down to a tight 90 minutes. Michael Ajao as John seems like an unnecessary character and a pointless love interest for Eloise. The entire ‘I don’t like my Uni flatmates’ rivalry often comes off as filler, but her uni bullies do dress as the characters from ‘The Craft’ in a Halloween party scene and that did get a fanboy thrill from me.
Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Last Night in Soho’. It’s a perfect mix of some of my favourite things, 60s pop songs, Italian horror and a filmmaker who is in full control of his vision. Sure, it falls short in some sections, but while watching it I thought ‘I can’t wait to buy this on Blu Ray’ and that’s always a good sign.
- Adam Neeson