My favorite directors, and the directors that I find tend to make the best movies, are the ones that have a very distinct DNA in their films that make it completely theirs: Quentin Tarantino, Taika Waititi, Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg just to name a few. Another such director is Edgar Wright, whose films such as Shaun of the Dead (2004), Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010), and Baby Driver (2017) carry a common tonality and artistic fingerprint that set them apart from every other film in their genres. Edgar Wright is a director that I always look forward to seeing a new film from, and his latest film Last Night in Soho (2021) was no different. Like most other Edgar Wright films, Last Night in Soho is a wildly entertaining film that patchworks a lot of tones, themes, and genres into a memorable moviegoing experience.
Having been accepted into the University of Arts in London, aspiring fashion designer Eloise (played by Thomasin McKenzie) must leave her countryside life and move into the Soho neighborhood of London. Ever since Eloise’s mother killed herself when Eloise was young, she has had a sixth sense as she see’s the ghost of her mother in the mirror. Once in London, Eloise begins seeing visions of a glamorous girl in the 60’s named Sandie (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer with a romance with her mysterious manager named Jack (played by Matt Smith). As the visions continue, they begin to break into Eloise’s life, outside of her dreams, and cause Eloise to mentally spiral until she solves what happened to Sandie back in the 1960’s.
When I called Last Night in Soho a patchwork of a bunch of different pieces, I thoroughly meant it. This film is, at its core, a love letter to 1960’s London with the other genres and themes as auxiliary supports. The opening act of this film is a very different film than the one in the final act: the beginning of the film is very much a (slightly heavy-handed) commentary on sexual harassment towards women and about overcoming obstacles to achieve your dreams. By the end of the film, the movie is a murder mystery, ghost story filled with ghostly set pieces and psychedelic visuals. The bridging the gap between the two genres is not going to work for everyone, but personally, I loved the way Edgar Wright combined a lot of different elements (both tonally and technically) to create this nostalgia-filled horror film. The soundtrack, cinematography, and unique premise fire all cylinders as the film progresses. By far, however, the best support for this film is the incredible performances of Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. Both of these incredible leading actresses give fantastic performances and carry the entire script and plot on their shoulders. Had the casting directors chosen any other people for these roles, I don’t know if this film would work for me as much as it does. Taylor-Joy and McKenzie both completely own every scene in the film and sell the audience on whatever emotion Wright is wanting to elicit from us. Many of the supporting roles are incredible as well, in particular the late Diana Rigg, who plays Eloise’s landlady Miss Collins, and Matt Smith are both fantastic and help bring an atmosphere of intrigue to this murder-mystery style horror.
While I really enjoyed this film, there are a few aspects that might turn others away. As stated earlier, for example, this film is heavy-handed in its thematic messaging, with some of the dialogue and shots just to make the audience very uncomfortable in very odd places. This is very present in the first half of the film when Eloise first arrives in London and begins classes. While some of these scenes work on their own, they also make scenes with the one likable male character, Eloise’s love interest John (played by Michael Ajao), unnecessarily tense and slightly out of place tonally. The “out of place tonally” is not just a piece of critique for the scenes with the John character either. While I enjoyed the tonal smorgasbord this film had, its not going to work for everyone, in fact, several parts will likely be jarring for most audience members. Along with potentially jarring tonal shifts, I think some people will be turned off by the style of horror this film presents. Major horror fans are not likely going to find this film scary. So, if you are going into this film to get a lot of scares, this is probably not the film for you. Also, like most horror movies, most of the secondary and tertiary characters are very flat and common caricatures. While this does lend to the focus being more on Eloise and Sandie, it also makes the modern day, real world scenes seem more unrealistic than the ghostly time travel aspect and it makes any emotional connection to the side characters non-existent.
Last Night in Soho is yet another Edgar Wright film that I find incredibly fun to watch, and I cannot wait to go see it for a second time. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy both deliver great performances and keep the story engaging and thrilling throughout. While some of the messaging can be heavy-handed and the overall tone of the film sporadically changes leaving you with a bit of whiplash, the fantastic lead performances, visuals, soundtrack, and story will leave you having a great time at the cinema.
Last Night in Soho is rated R for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity.
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