By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In choosing my preferred films for this year’s Fantastic Fest, I was definitely blessed in that I was able to receive access to all of my choices. For those unfamiliar with their system, the people in charge of Fantastic Fest utilize a lottery system for seating their attendees, and I just happened to win admission to both of their secret screenings. The first of which was the latest film by filmmaker Edgar Wright. It gave me much joy to discover that I was about to watch his new movie and was also joyously surprised that Wright was there to present his movie and participate in a Q & A after the screening. Well, as it turns out, I was treated to what became my absolute favorite feature of the festival. Though not as extraordinary as some of his previous films, Last Night In Soho proved to be a wonderful experience and a particularly unique offering from the talented director.
The story follows the protagonist Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), a skillful and gifted fashion designer from a humble background who aspires to become a successful and influential force in her field. After accepting the opportunity of a lifetime, Ellie moves away from her hometown to a rough and tumble apartment in the Soho area in Westminster, England. Soho was once a bustling and hip area, particularly during the 1960 that had a vibrant entertainment district. While some things have changed some, Ellie has a sixth sense that allows her to see visions from the past in what seems to be a dream-like state.
Just after moving to her new home, Ellie begins seeing the life of the beautiful and passionate Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a talented, but struggling singer who pursued an entertainment career in Soho during the 1960s, but soon discovered that the hip life wasn’t all that she had hoped it would be. After witnessing these past experiences as Sandie, Ellie comes to the realization that Sandie would eventually encounter tragedy and thusly, she feels further compelled to discover the truth behind what actually happened.
Written and directed by Wright, who co-wrote the film with Kristy Wilson-Cairns, Last Night In Soho delivers a cinematic experience that comes across as a hybrid of Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. As Ellie begins unraveling the mystery behind Sandie’s tragic life, she discovers that the ghosts of the past will never rest until their truths will be revealed. It truly is an incredible experience that blends suspense-thriller and horror genres and does so under the great skill and mostly meticulous direction of Edgar Wright. While Wright has previously helmed movies that have more prominent comedic elements, Last Night In Soho is certainly his most serious offering.
Not only is the writing very solid, save for some cliche choices, but his impressive direction is on perfect display. His attention to detail is expressed beautifully in the visual presentation which owes much to the impressive and gorgeous cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung and the stupendous editing by Paul Machliss. The movie looks immaculate is a mostly feast for the eyes. Much praise should be bestowed upon the production design and costumes which allow the film to feel very real, but also other-worldly when necessary.
In addition, the movie’s cast give amazing performances. Thomasin McKenzie is perfectly cast as the naive, but talented fashion designer with other special talents that allow her to experience he present life and life in the past. As Sandie, Anya Taylor-Joy is absolutely beautiful. And I don’t exactly mean that in just a physical sense, but in the way she fleshes out her character with seemingly haunting and vulnerable qualities. Matt Smith also gives an exceptional turn as Jack, a charming, but untrustworthy romantic interest for Sandie. The movie also can boast wonderful performances by Diana Rigg, Terrence Stamp, and Rita Tushingham,
Last Night In Soho is getting released during Halloween weekend and I cannot think of a better new release to watch in theaters during this time. It is so great to see Edgar Wright take on something slightly out of his usual element and perform so well in doing so. I honestly cannot wait to see what he does next, and one can only hope that he does something completely different and does so in an awesome way.