Featuring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Rita Tushingham and Michael Ajao
Directed by Edgar Wright
Over the last twenty-odd years, Edgar Wright has slowly and surely been establishing a clear and exciting style for himself, which makes its mark through impeccable timing, a great attention to detail, and simply a feeling of joy and excitement shining through in his work – showing that directing really is his true calling. At the turn of the millennium, Wrights’ hilarious and fascinating take on the sitcom genre won over a large crowd of British TV viewers. His later ‘Cornetto’ trilogy would have the same effect on the next generation of British moviegoers, and you’d be hard pressed to find any young adult on this island who couldn’t finish the quote, “No luck catching them swans then…” In more recent years, action-packed ‘Baby Driver’ would catch eyes and ears on a more global stage – particularly within Hollywood – through its eclectic soundtrack and constant feeling of rhythm – skills honed by the director since the very start of all of this. As a result you’d expect his latest film, ‘Last Night in Soho’ – a high budget thriller with huge names attached, appearing under the credit of a director who so far doesn’t have seemed to have missed a beat his entire career, to have moviegoers queuing around the block, with rave reviews following soon after. And yet things don’t seem to have quite panned out that way.
For this review, the term ‘latest’ is probably a littler generous. ‘Last Night in Soho’ reached UK cinemas in October of last year, but has more recently been creeping its way into households through its addition to various streaming services. Despite this, as well the previously mentioned number of attributes attached to the film, it seems to have all passed by with very little fanfare. Described frequently as ‘disappointing’, ‘underwhelming’ and at times, strangely rough around the edges compared to Wrights’ previous filmography, and I can’t say I completely disagree.
The film explores the supernatural connection which forms between a young, nostalgic fashion designer named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who’s just beginning her studies at UAL, and similarly aspirational, but seemingly more confident Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) – a resident of 1960’s Soho with grand aspirations of becoming a famous performer. However, as Eloise bears witness to the progressively-worsening series of horrors which play out for Sandy all those years ago, her own position in the big city seems to become all the more disturbing.
The two lead performers are, of course, really strong, and make for an interesting driving force within the narrative, as despite their intertwining connection, it’s rare that the two ever communicate. Like a false mirror, Eloise is helpless to only watch Sandy’s heartbreaking story, and Sandy seems to remain almost entirely unaware of the presence of the other.
‘Last Night in Soho’ deals with some deeply traumatic themes, and uses the thriller/horror genre to explore the root of these issues. It’s not an entirely new idea, but one that can work extremely well if executed with a deep consideration and clear perspective for such a story. Films like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me’ spring to mind. However, unlike these classic films, Wrights approach with the subject matter of the film feels misguided, and, at times, straight up uncomfortable – a far cry from his reputation as an extremely concise director in terms of his storytelling ability.
The visual style too seems extremely unlike previous works such as ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim’, which really holds back a film which aspires to create tension and thrills, as what is shown, or perhaps not shown, remains a key element to having the audience digging their fingernails into any unfortunate sofa cushion.
Of course, to measure the failure of a filmmaker against their previous successes does, in this case, highlight ‘Last Night in Soho’ as an anomaly within Wright’s body of work. It still has some interesting and exciting moments both visually, and in terms of narrative, and would probably work well as a throwaway evenings’ viewing, but will hopefully be looked back on more as a small blip in the career of an otherwise extremely innovative modern director.