October 2021 has been a one of the best months for movie goers since before the global pandemic hit back in March of 2020. A new release every week, big title after big title that started with Venom: Let There be Carnage and ending with director Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. Possibly my most anticipated film of the month (sorry Dune). And the release date is absolutely fitting – coinciding with Halloween. A genre-bending nostalgia fest is the foundation for a director who has some of the most memorable films in recent memory – films that also transcend genres like Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Baby Driver (man, I love Baby Driver).
Knowing the quality of an Edgar Wright written and directed film is exactly what fans of his filmography will get excited for. Somehow, Last Night in Soho fits into the Cornetto trilogy, I don’t know how or what the connective tissue is, but It’s related. I think. Regardless, Wright’s attention to the details, however miniscule, make him one of the best directors working today. Imagine his version of Ant-Man if he and Marvel never got into creative control disputes.
The best way to describe Last Night in Soho is this – a nostalgia driven psychological horror film with time travel elements involved. When Eloise Turner (Thomasin Mackenzie) goes to London to become a fashion designer, she begins to have haunted visions of the past namely of an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Each night Ellie goes to sleep and the curtain peels back even further to see how Sandie’s life progresses from showbusiness to prostitution to eventual death at the hand of her manager/pimp Jack (Matt Smith). In present day, Ellie moves out of her toxic dorm room into an apartment building owned by Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg) while she centers her fashion around Sandie, even changing her look to mirror the decade in which she loves.
Right off the bat, Wright’s use, and love of music is noticeable throughout the films 116-minute runtime. It’s not just the selection of the music, it’s how it’s used to amplify emotion of his characters and in turn the viewer. The music is just one aspect that transports we as the viewer to the 1960’s – a decade which Ellie would prefer to live in. And could you blame her? Movies, fashion, music all serve as influence for todays culture. Nostalgia is the biggest theme among others.
Beyond nostalgia, chasing a dream may not always be what it appears. Sure, we all see the glitz and the glamour when a performer is on stage and the excitement it brings but as a fan and as the viewer, we don’t see much that happens behind the scenes (unless there’s a documentary about it on one of the 27 streaming services). People get taken advantage of every single day, forced into uncomfortable situations against their will because of the belief of the dream. This is what I must do to make it to the top, to see yourself in lights like the giant poster for Thunderball. But why put yourself through that trauma? The shadowy side of the business that no one sees – the toxic masculinity, the drugs, the constant fear that you’re not good enough and replaceable is shown in in a tragic sequence as Sandie tries to escape the life she thought was going to be easy because of her talent. In the end, show business is a ghost story for her.
Stylistically, Last Night in Soho is gorgeous. The lights, sounds, music, fashion all are a mix of modern day and the 60’s that blend seamlessly together as does the mirrored performances by Taylor-Joy and Mackenzie. Both ladies prove their star power as two rising talents in Hollywood. Though never directly in contact with one another, both have a magnetic chemistry while on screen together. Smith is charming, sweet, and dangerous as Jack showing the toxic masculinity of show business that resembles real life today and the #metoo movement. Only Jack may never get the light shown on his shadowy business practices. In her final performance Diana Rigg (most famous for her Bond girl performance in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or her outstanding portrayal of Olenna Tyrell on Game of Thrones) steals every scene she’s in, adding a mysterious nature to her character that doesn’t sit right as the film progresses.
Last Night in Soho is full of twists and turns that elevate some of the weaker aspects of the script written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917). Some of the twists I’d love to speak on but would be subject to spoilers and I hate when things are spoiled. A couple of obvious plot holes here and there but the plot holes don’t take away from the overall enjoyment of Wright’s work.
Due to the nature of climatic scenes in Last Night in Soho, the marketing campaign was well thought out and brilliant, throwing off anyone who may have a clue to the nature of some of the characters. One character that benefited the most from the clever campaign is Lindsay (Terence Stamp) who does an excellent job disguising his true intentions amidst the strength of the script.
Last Night in Soho is an engaging psychological horror film that will keep you on your toes, never ruling out any of the characters in the past or present. Production design, a vintage and modern fused aesthetic led by two energetically magnetized performances end the month of October on a high note in an oversaturated month of releases. Wright’s direction paired with the cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung and a score that grows more disturbed by the minute by Steven Price, Last Night in Soho is near perfect. The only aspect holding it back is some script work that result in some head scratching moments. Don’t be fooled by the ‘Horror’ tag, no real jump scares but the couple that are in there are quite predicable that end up being more thrilling than scary.
Written By: Edgar Wright & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Music By: Steven Price
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Starring: Thomasin Mackenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Michael Ajao
Release Date: October 29, 2021
Running Time: 1 Hour 56 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%
My Score: 4 out of 5