Edgar Wright’s stylish and haunting thriller falls into an unsatisfying climax that tries to be a little too clever.
I love his work, and Last Night in Soho has a lot of terrific Wright moments with some creepy ones too. The story of young Eloise (and that will tell you a lot about soundtracking your screenplay) moving to London to pursue a career in fashion design is endearing and interesting when we realize she has some kind of psychic power that allows her to have sightings of her deceased mum.Thomasin McKenzie plays the part with a determined vulnerability that instantly has the audience on her side, however, this trait eventually starts to grind, and by the end of the screenplay, Eloise is so imploded that it’s almost hard to hear her lines of dialogue through her fog of self-indulgence. As a character, Eloise needed a moment to grab the situation, but it never really happens.
When Eloise leaves the halls of residence, she moves into a bedsit run by Diana Rigg, then the real plot starts as she begins to have visions of Anya Taylor Joy’s Sandie, and the life she seems to have lived in London in the swinging ’60s.
It’s clear that Wright relished every sequence imagined in this time period. We switch consistently from modern-day to then, and the visuals evoke an era that is drenched in style and atmosphere.
Everything from cinema hoardings of Sean Connery as Bond, to smoke-filled seedy cabaret clubs, Wright creates a tapestry of London in the ’60s, that is exciting and dangerous in equal measures. We follow the vision of Sandie, through the dream-like visions of Eloise. Sandie is a beautiful wannabe club singer, who traverses the London streets like a force of nature. Things start to get complicated when she meets Matt Smith’s Jack who promises to introduce her to the right people and kick start her singing career, but things go south quite quickly, and Sandie is thrown into a darker world than she imagined, and Eloise is watching it all from the present day.
The style and enthusiasm of Last Night in Soho are where the real beauty is, and it’s easy to get lost in the world on show, but it does detract from the actual story, and by the end of the third act, there is a sense that underneath the surface there could have been a better story than the one produced.
As we approach the final act, things have become quite drawn out and prolonged, to the point where there are whole scenes that appear superfluous to the outcome. Eloise visiting the microfilm files in a gothic library seems only to exist to give us another creepy set-piece. It would have been so much easier to have her Google what she was looking for on her phone, but where’s the fun in that?
The pacing starts to drag, and the more time you are given to process the events transpiring, the more you start to see the cracks in the narrative.
There are a couple of twists that make the whole thing feel a bit Shyamalan, and despite its best intentions, nothing feels credible enough to be surprising. The ending almost feels unearned, as the revelations fail to carry any real shock. I want this to remain spoiler-free, so I won’t go too deep into the finale, but this is a real case of putting style over substance, and the set pieces being more memorable than the entity as a whole.