It’s been a while since a film has grabbed me in such a captivating way Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” has. Complete with a killer soundtrack, creative and interesting production design and direction, as well as a murder mystery involving ghosts in both modern day and 1960s London, there’s a lot to love about this film.
The film is told from the perspective of a fashion student named Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), who has moved to London from the country in order to enroll in the London College of Fashion. She hopes to work in the industry, following her grandmother and mother’s footsteps, and we learn early on that she is sensitive to the supernatural, as she is able to see the spirit of her deceased mother, that she mostly ignores.
Not all goes well in London, as her roommate and classmate, Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), turns out to be an absolute nightmare, insisting that Ellie join her and her friends to go out clubbing before the first day of classes, and she later throws a huge party at their place without Ellie’s knowledge or consent. To make matters worse, she immediately starts talking badly about her behind her back, and kicks her out of their room so she can have sex with a guy. Needless to say, Ellie immediately starts looking for other housing accommodations, which leads her to rent a room in an old house on Goodge Street owned by a strict lady named Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg).
Once at the apartment, the narrative takes off, as each night, Ellie experiences realistic dreams in which she is transported to locations seen earlier in the film, such as her room, and the bar around the corner, in the 1960s, in which she follows the life of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who becomes involved with a shady character named Jack (Matt Smith) who becomes her manager. Mild spoiler: Jack isn’t exactly who he makes himself out to be, and Sandie’s life soon spirals downward, as she gives everything for her dream of making it as an entertainer. As her tale gets darker, Ellie’s dreams become more intrusive and consequential, bleeding through into her waking moments.
The film’s narrative is beautifully told in a visual way by Wright, who manages to give the film a unique rhythm and flow that no doubt was gingerly crafted in collaboration with the film’s editor, Paul Machliss, who is a veteran of a few of Wright’s productions, including “Baby Driver” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” How it uses color, dissolves, superimposed imagery and of course music especially in scenes where Ellie’s dreams/visions collide with action happening in the real world make the film truly unique, and something you can’t take your eyes off of — and it’s all told at a wonderfully breakneck pace that won’t tire you.
And the performances are great across the board, with McKenzie, Smith and Taylor-Joy being perfectly cast for their roles. The narrative itself is wonderfully-balanced with nothing going to waste — even simple characters like Jocasta are used in complex, multi-faceted ways that drive the story forward. The story is filled with twists and layers that will make you want to view the film over and over.
It’s been a while since I’ve been this engaged with a film. “Last Night in Soho” is easily the best movie I’ve seen all year, and I expect it to do very well come awards season. I’d say that it’s just short of a masterpiece, but it’s certainly one of Wright’s best films.
“Last Night in Soho” gets a 9.5/10