There is no denying my admiration of Edgar Wright’s work. I’ve been anxiously waiting for Last Night in Soho (2021) to be available for me to watch and I can’t deny that my own hype probably made the stunning visuals and high caliber performances click. That’s not to say I didn’t take issue with some of the story beats…and I’m not 100% sure I understand what the film is trying to say. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed my first viewing of Wright’s latest film, and the experience is worth your time.
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) has her chance to become a fashion designer and moves to London for school. Things are not exactly what she had been hoping for, but things look up when she finds herself able to travel into the 1960s, where she is able to observe Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a wannabe singer, and her manager-turned-boyfriend, Jack (Matt Smith). Eloise is taken by the beauty and style of the sixties – but soon finds it isn’t as dazzling as it initially seemed.
McKenzie has been a top performer this year, also starring in Old (2021), The Justice of Bunny King (2021), and The Power of the Dog (2021), which is the only one of these films I’ve not seen yet. While she has been good in the ones I have seen, I believe her performance in Soho is phenomenal. The film definitely relies on her ability to win the audience over – and if you are compelled by her character, you are in for the film. It’s not an easy thing, to do as much of the story is left for the audience to decide on or accept, as there are no real answers given, which may lead one to not connect to it as a result. For me, McKenzie and Michael Aja – playing John – have enough on-screen presence to sell me on them.
Taylor-Joy has been a powerhouse presence in every role she takes, and this role is no exception. She is second to McKenzie, mostly as a result of story and screentime (basing this solely on memory) – but she still gives an incredibly memorable performance. Some of the best visuals in the movie are in the first sequence with Taylor-Joy and McKenzie. Wright ensures we understand the dynamic of their connection…mostly…as he cuts between both actresses. Once Taylor-Joy and Jack take to the dance floor, it seems impossible not to be drawn in and awed by Wright’s cinematic style and flair. The dude knows how to use his soundtrack better than most. There are so many sequences that are so visually compelling, that – for me – it made up for any issues with logic or story flubs.
Last Night in Soho is certainly going to be divisive. It ultimately will come down to what you are looking for from the film. There are plenty of horror movies that clearly inspired this one that care little for logic or sensible story beats, choosing style over substance. Often, that is something that does not work for me – but Wright’s style has long matched my tastes, and that hasn’t changed here. I was engrossed and impressed throughout the film – and since I’m no sycophant for the filmmakers that I enjoy, I can still love every minute while acknowledging the film’s shortcomings. For me, Last Night in Soho earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.