'Last Night In Soho' review: Edgar Wright takes viewer on wild and trippy bender
Courtesy of Focus Features
Filled with suspense, bright neon colors, and a vintage soundtrack, Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” firmly plants its feet as one of the more original films of the year (and possibly, one of the best). Confidently leading audiences down twisty corridors where the ups and downs might not offer the most satisfying resolutions, the trip to get there is indeed a doozy. Anya Taylor-Joy, fresh off her turn in “The Queen’s Gambit,” and Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit”) headline this artsy coming-of-age story that blends several genres from mystery and horror, to even the memory play. Tennessee Williams would be proud.
“Last Night in Soho” is a miraculous showcase for both McKenzie and Taylor-Joy as they continue their ascension into mega movie stardom. Far different than the filmmaker’s previous film, “Baby Driver,” which was an action movie finely tuned to the beat of its own drum, “Soho” takes a trip into the past as it tries reinventing itself in the future. You might see the ending coming, but that doesn’t detract from the production value and startling imagery Wright, and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, cook up along the way. It’s a bender you don’t want to awaken from.
The film introduces Ellie (McKenzie), an aspiring fashion design student recently accepted into a prestigious school in east London. Her mind, thanks to Grandma, who took care of her after mom committed suicide when she was seven, is rooted in swinging ‘60s lore. McKenzie conveys a wide range of emotions in these earlier scenes, displaying a certain level of conviction before unraveling the darker, deeper layers of an individual who might be psychologically compromised. When she rents a room from an older lady (Diana Rigg in her final on-screen performance) in the upper east side, Ellie finds herself transported to 1966 inside the body of Sandie (Taylor-Joy), a singer looking for her big break.
It’s hard to ascertain what’s reality as Wright playfully keeps the audiences on their toes. Yes, Sandie could be real and communicate with Ellie through vivid, lifelike sequences, but she also could be a figment of someone’s imagination. What we do know is all of Sandie’s movements, and most importantly, her narrative is filtered through the lens of Ellie’s subconscious, a warped rabbit hole where everything (and anything) is on the table. Credit again to both actresses for working in sync to keep audiences on the hook, Taylor-Joy even covers Petula Clark’s 1960 classic “Downtown” with a fresh 2021 lens. Her voice is nothing short of beautiful.
“Last Night in Soho” is a magic top that sometimes doesn’t know when to stop spinning, but it all comes to head in a transfixing climax that doesn’t leave much unturned. Audience mileage will vary based on their own theories, guaranteed to proliferate during the film’s breezy two-hour runtime, becoming realized. Some might pinch themselves for calling the final shot, but it’s still an unforgettable night with stunning darkness (Chung-hoon Chung’s vibrant cinematography sizzles) and a noble fuse of the past and present that lingers well after the credits roll.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO opens in theaters Friday, October 29th.