A More Restrained Effort From Edgar Wright
Last Night in Soho is the latest film from acclaimed writer/director Edgar Wright. His first film since the summer Blockbuster hit Baby Driver, Soho does not feature the typical flashy/snappy editing from Wright. It's a psychological horror/thriller which, although humorous at times, does not have the same lighthearted tone to it. The film is much more serious, especially considering the subject matter at hand. All of these being quite the departure for Wright, it was fascinating to such a development in his career. Wright brought on Kristy Wilson-Cairns to help him pen the script, presumably to assist with the storytelling from the female perspective. The story follows Eloise, or Ellie, portrayed sensationally by Thomasin McKenzie, an aspiring fashion designer who moves to London to pursue her dream. While at fashion school, she struggles to adapt and make friends, and upon encountering roommate troubles, she moves into a room above an old lady as her tenant, a room that's giving her visions or hallucinations, and is possibly haunted. Let's take a deeper dive into the film.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of the film, is its filmmaking. The quality of the production makes this a seamless and enjoyable experience. Given the nature of its storytelling, this was going to require a unique approach. The story led by Ellie's visions essentially mirrors that of her own. Specifically, the story that she's following is of Sandy, an aspiring singer/dancer/performer, played beautifully by Anya Taylor Joy. Back to the production side of things, the camerawork at play is so captivating and engrossing that you're completely engulfed by this story and you feel like you're with Ellie all the way. You also begin to wonder if Ellie is insane throughout the course of the story as she comes from a history of mental illness in her family. The production design is stunning and the lighting is beautiful. It feels like there are several odes to Suspiria (1977), so it's clear that Edgar Wright loves the genre and loves to honor it. All this being said, the cinematography is outstanding and carries us through the enthralling story so stunningly and with such impeccable propulsion.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the spectacular performances by Thomasin McKenize and Anya Taylor Joy. The supporting cast is also terrific, but the lead performances are so outstanding, we cannot take our eyes off them. Thomasin McKenzie's frantic, mortified performance carries us through the film while Anya Taylor Joy intoxicates us with her retro performance of a starlet with dreams of grandeur and eventual disillusionment. Matt Smith and Terence Stamp also deliver sensational performances in supporting roles, as Sandy's manager and someone who is involved in a great twist, so I shall not mention who exactly he is supposed to be (respectively). I would truly be remiss if I failed to mention that Diana Rigg is superb in her swan song, may she rest in peace. The acting community lost one of the greats with her. Although there are no Oscar prospects here, I dare say, these performances are all still remarkable and profoundly noteworthy.
Last, and certainly not least, I wanted to mention that the screenplay is the next strongest aspect of the film. While it may not reinvent the wheel where psychological horror/thrillers are concerned, it is still such a tightly wound and well crafted script. My favorite aspect is probably the structure which aids the propulsive nature of the narrative. It moves at such a swift pace that we're never bored and almost always enthralled. Additionally, the script also does not reinvent the wheel where dialogue is concerned, but it always gets the job done and has moments of relief, which are very much needed. The story might be familiar to some, but for me, it felt wholly original and very lived in. I was always interested and the air of mystery about the story left me constantly intrigued. The character of Ellie is always tested and her profound interest in the story of Sandy also left us wanting more, which gives the audience something to look forward to at all times. While I could predict the major twist by the end, it's still wholly engrossing and profoundly satisfying once we arrive at it. This is one of those screenplays, while it may have gaps in logic and reason in the ever-debated third and final act, that will be the talk of the town for days and weeks (possibly even years) to come.
Last Night in Soho, flaws and all, is a great time at the movie theater (which I would highly recommend to go see it this way). The story is so enthralling that it is sure to keep you entertained from start to finish. I had such a blast with this film that I was willing to forgive its shortcomings, for which there aren't many. The overall production surrounding this film is so high quality, that you barely realize you're even watching a film. The performances are on-point and leave you with a smile on your face (especially if you love Anya Taylor Joy as much as I do). The screenplay is such a fresh and original take on the genre that it's a welcomed, ambitious risk. I respect that over all else, warts and all. This genre has so much copy/paste, rinse/repeat that it's so refreshing to see films like this. As stated, this certainly has a flawed third act that you will likely have to look past in order to enjoy it on the whole. I didn't mind it all that much and I'm willing to overlook it since I had such a fun time with it when all is said and done. It bears repeating that it's a beautiful swan song for Diana Rigg and I thank Edgar Wright and the whole production team for giving us this wonderful, tremendous film.
Last Night in Soho is a Focus Features film and is NOT available to stream anywhere (yet). That said, it is currently seeing a theatrical release worldwide and should be available in a theater near you.