Edgar Wright has always championed the art of making rewatchable films, I’ve probably seen each instalment of The Cornetto Trilogy an unhealthy number of times, and it still feels as if I’m watching it for the first time. Whether is well tiny details are hidden, the mishmash of genres being appreciated or just the overall coolness, Edgar Wright is a master of film style. The statement made by Edgar Wright’s career is a loud one, his Cornetto Trilogy can be seen as love letters to cinema itself and the genres the films represent, but with Baby Driver and now Last Night in Soho, he’s opening up his arms as if to say, “now let me show you how great I really am”.
Last Night in Soho is unlike anything you’ve seen from this man, although it is officially classified as a psychological horror, I feel as though every act is its own subgenre. In fact, the psychological element of the film doesn’t really kick in until the second act, but when it does, the grip it has on you is unparalleled. There is something terrifying found in every corner, every turn of the camera and taking into consideration the spacing in the frame during these moments, it feels quite claustrophobic. That is where the film’s grip comes from. The only instances where the film relinquishes its grip is when it has to transition smoothly from one subgenre to the other, with this change each act feels like a different viewing experience.
Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise, a fashion student with an appreciation for the glamour of the 60’s, gives a performance as wide-eyed as her own eyes. I felt her life as a new student was a brutally honest one where her character can get a lot of appreciation from people with similar experiences. The classic move from the country to the big city formula is, at its core, not entirely different, but the two time periods of the present and the 1960s actually demonstrates this ingeniously. Ana Taylor-Joy is Sandy, the girl of Eloise’s visions who is introduced to Jack (Matt Smith) in the hopes he will kickstart her career as an entertainer.
Of course with Eloise being a fashion student, the costumes of Last Night in Soho are impeccably well designed. In the film, not only does Eloise become Sandy in the dreams, but she also physically changes her appearance in the present day to become closer to her. She designs her dress, buys a retro white jacket and dyes her hair blonde. It really brings to life her passion for 60’s fashion and helps bring the period to life in both the best and the worst ways, because it’s not all bright lights and swinging parties, there is a darker side that Edgar Wright is clear to express.
As is a feature in Edgar Wright film, he recognises that every element of filmmaking has to serve a purpose in Last Night in Soho. The editing has impeccable timing, especially when Eloise and Sandy switch places or Eloise is matching Sandy’s movements in the mirror as an onlooker. Even lighting has a part to play, Eloise lives in a flat where the window is bombarded by the red, blue and white lights of an Italian bistro. You can always tell when something scary is going to happen because only the red light will be present. It acts as a visual setup rather than an audio one like many horrors do today and, in this instance, it works even better than suspenseful music. I’m sure other techniques we’re at play, so like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, Last Night in Soho is another one to rewatch just to spot how things are alluded to.
Now because Last Night in Soho contains a mystery, it walks a dangerous line in audience satisfaction. Just like different people have their own taste in horror, they have their own taste in mysteries. When the twists are revealed, they have to be earned and convincing enough for audiences to accept, and Last Night in Soho won’t satisfy all audiences. It feels like at times the film is scouring the story to find any points in the story that could constitute a twist, or elements are added in for the sake of answering the twist. It really is a 50/50 reaction, some may accept the twists and turns, some won’t, but I do believe many will think that some weren’t warranted enough.
The problem with having two time periods in a film is that naturally, the audience is going to gravitate to the more visually interesting period, in this case, the 1960’s. However, this has a knock-on effect for the other period, and it can make scenes that take place there feel boring. Last Night in Soho doesn’t have that vibrance and energy to keep the contemporary setting equally as interesting. With the 1960’s setting, you have bright light, classic cars, a large poster for the film “Thunderball”, it naturally has nostalgia on its side. The present day is nowhere near that interesting.
Despite these issues, Last Night in Soho still has that personal factor. If Edgar Wright’s career as a filmmaker has proven anything, is that he has a respect for the craft and those that have come before him. This film feels very personal and passionate in the way it unravels. it’s a film that has issues for sure, issues that could have easily been reassessed, but it still retains its guarantee as a quality film that delivers an equally quality experience. I could tell this is a film made for the cinema because Edgar Wright cares about the cinema experience, and after almost a year of people not being able to live that experience, Last Night in Soho is a film that reminds us that the talent we have in cinema won’t give up on it.
Final Result: 8/10 – Very Good
Have you seen Last Night in Soho? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Eternals