Outside of The Sparks Brothers which is a documentary, Last Night in Soho is Edgar Wright’s “at least Edgar Wright” film. Humor is removed, kinetic direction including quick cuts (which are often used to strengthen comedy) is replaced with color and atmosphere. Cornetto’s trilogy, most notably Shaun of the Dead (2004) saw Wright fiddle with the horror formula, but this is the first time he’s fully immersed in the genre.
The biggest inspiration, whether in terms of storytelling or directing, came from the titles of the 60s era, such as Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), Alfred Hitchcock’s works, to the giallo subgenre which is synonymous with murder and flashy color plays. Top Movie Site
The manuscript by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) used two time settings, namely modern and 60s. The modern era tells the story of Ellie’s (Thomasin McKenzie) struggle to achieve her dream as a fashion designer. She was awarded a scholarship at the London College of Fashion. Her talent, coupled with the inspiration that comes from her love of music and 60s fashion, makes Ellie both potential and unique.
Meanwhile, the 60s is centered on the glittering nightlife of London, where a girl named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) is also chasing dreams. Not as a fashion designer, but a singer. The door of opportunity opens after her introduction to Jack (Matt Smith), who eventually becomes Sandie’s manager, after promising to make that dream come true.
The two timelines will be connected in a way that I’d rather not describe. A way that doesn’t pay attention to logic or rules around structure. There is a dreamy feel like the works of David Lynch. No problem, if indeed surrealism is the intended form. But even surrealism needs consistency, and the inconsistency is quite pronounced here. Especially as a result of “hickeys”. You will know what it is, and why it causes inconsistencies after watching the film. Wright obviously hopes the audience doesn’t ask, “what’s really going on?”, but the one inconsistency above will only strengthen the question.
Best Movie Compared to the quality of the structure, the narrative is stronger in its message. The main theme is about “the process of becoming”. Ellie wants to be a designer, while Sandie wants to be a singer. But behind that, there is a deeper dynamic that touches the psychic and social realms.
Ellie is hooked on 60s London. The music, the clothes, the culture. Once captivated, he slowly begins to lose his identity, then becomes someone he is not. Sandie is the same, regarding her ambition to become a stage star. Both, consciously or not, are caught up in the activity of pretending. Who is Ellie? Who is Sandy? The longer it takes, the more blurry the answer will be.
In the social order, Ellie and Sandie’s connections also touch the issue of sexism. The bond between the two is a manifestation of how sexism does not only affect one person at a time (right here right now), it also leads to generational trauma. His narration is sharp (not to mention the script criticizing the police officers’ inaccuracy), including his unapologetic conclusions.
Towards the end, Ellie engages in interactions with Ms Collins, the owner of the house where she rents the room (Diana Rigg in her last role before passing away on September 10, 2020). “They deserve this”, said Ms Collins, to which Ellie replied “I know”. This interaction confirms that Last Night in Soho is not half-hearted in voicing its resistance.
The title Last Night in Soho is taken from the song of the same name by Dave Dee, Dozy, Breaky, Mick & Tich, which Quentin Tarantino played to Edgar Wright. Music does play an important role in building the mood as well as underlies Wright’s directing, including the tempo game that follows the rhythm of the song, although it is not as detailed as Baby Driver (2017).
As already mentioned, Wright abandoned his visual idiosyncrasies to switch to using bold colors as mood builders. There is a feeling of “terror”, which apart from the color, is also present in a shot that highlights Ellie’s expression of extreme fear. All of that Wright “taken” from the 60s (and some 70s) horror titles/types I wrote above. Interesting, though sadly, the tricks that Wright uses to scare more explicitly (appearances, a little jump scare), are too repetitive, making it quite tiring for a film that runs almost two hours.
What’s not repetitive and yet very attractive? Of course Anya Taylor-Joy with her screen presence. Seeing her dressed like a 60s woman, the occasional image of a Nancy Sinatra performing These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) fills my head. It could be because of the hairdo, or Sandie’s pink dress which is somewhat reminiscent of the singer’s outfit in the Bang Bang video clip, or the combination of sensuality and deadly aura that they both have. If Thomasin McKenzie is able to bridge the audience with a fantasy world that is as absurd as a dream, then Anya Taylor-Joy is a dream in itself. Captivating, also mysterious. Movie Review