Before the screening began, a letter from Edgar Wright was read aloud, asking audiences not to spoil the twists and turns of the final act of Last Night in Soho, and after seeing the film, I know exactly why he did this. In this review, there will be no spoilers or plot points ruined that weren’t already in the marketing for the film, so you can still go in as cold as possible.
The film follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a young woman with a troubled family past of mental health issues, who travels to London to become a fashion designer. However, soon after moving, she begins to dream about a girl, Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her life in Soho in the 60s.
However, she soon realises these are less dreams and more visions of the past, and begins to unravel as the past seeps into her present. With the walls closing in around her, she realises the only way to save her present and future, is to solve the mystery of the past, before it consumes her entirely.
There has been a reasonably divisive reaction to this film, maybe more so than any of Wright’s previous work, but this is perhaps inevitable as it is a much larger departure than what we are used to from him.
Wright has obviously dabbled in the horror genre before in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, but in this film he fully leans in. This is a thriller and horror mash up, and is unapologetic in that. The horror moments are used sparingly at first but when they do hit, they really make you jump. Nothing that will cause you to lose sleep in the weeks after watching, but effective all the same.
Wright directs the film with such vigour and passion that it is tough to not be engrossed. A sequence near the start of the film, where Eloise first ‘enters the 60s’ has some absolutely superb visual flourishes and immediately immerses you in the twisted and nostalgic world of Wright’s film.
It is well known that Edgar Wright took lots of inspiration from other filmmakers for this, with the likes of Roeg/Argento’s work being there for all to see. Argento especially, with the incredibly effective use of a broken shop light causing Eloise’s room to constantly light up neon red and blue, leading to some of the films most memorable images and the red/blue switching representing the constant switches between reality and fantasy for Eloise.
As for the cast, it is an ensemble that shines throughout. Despite marketing suggesting otherwise, this film very much has a singular lead in Thomasin McKenzie’s Eloise.
McKenzie follows up some breakthrough performances of great naturalism with a really compelling lead performance here. She expertly plays into Eloise’s vulnerability and desire to escape from not just her life situation, but from her own mind. She is very much the vessel that we see the rest of the film through which can be limiting at times, but McKenzie overcomes this and delivers something really strong.
It is Anya Taylor-Joy that much of the marketing has focused on and understandably so, she is a rapid rising star who shines again here. It is very much the key supporting role and not a co-lead role, but she still makes the most of it. The glamorous outfits, the confident charisma, the eyes which the camera clings to and the audience gets lost in, it is totally understandable why Eloise becomes so obsessed with Sandy.
There is a mix of strength and vulnerability that Taylor-Joy brings to many of her roles that she brings again here. Her rendition of ‘Downtown’ (and the whole sequence around it) is one of the stand out cinema moments of the year.
The rest of the ensemble also do strong work; Matt Smith is a charismatic and deeply sinister presence, Terence Stamp an effectively mysterious figure, and Diana Rigg, in her final screen appearance, being given a fittingly juicy part to play.
Something felt very deliberate in the casting too, mixing upcoming stars like McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, with stars of the 60s in Stamp and Rigg, is just another way that Edgar Wright is blurring reality and mixing together the two time periods.
Like many of the great 60s pop songs that have so clearly influenced this film, Last Night in Soho delivers unbridled thrills throughout whilst building to a satisfying crescendo. It is destined to become a cult favourite just like the films that have inspired it, and it is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable films of the year.
“Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you… There are movie shows…Downtown”
Rating = 4.5/5