REVIEW / FILM REVIEW – Edgar Wright is back with the amazing “Last Night in Soho” worn by Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. A horror thriller, between dream and reality, which deconstructs the nostalgia of the 1960s.
Gender change for Edgar Wright
Until now, Edgar wright was rather associated with the genre of comedy. Whether playing with the codes from the zombie movie (Shaun of the Dead, 2004) or detective films (Hot Fuzz, 2007) or science fiction (The Last Pub before the end of the world, 2013), comedy has always been dominant in his cinema. It was the same with the awesome Scott pilgrim (2010), which mixes the culture of comics and video games, and partly with Baby Driver (2017), inspired in particular by Driver (1978) by Walter Hill.
However, already with this previous fictional feature film (his documentary The Sparks Brothers released in 2021), the director staged a more serious violence, with tragic consequences. With Last Night in Soho, a fantastic thriller, Edgar Wright goes even further. He realizes here his darkest film, but also the most political.
The 60’s at the (rr) eur
However, by opening his film with a beautiful dance scene where Thomasin McKenzie, in a dress made of newspapers, plays Audrey Hepburn by imagining himself as a great fashion designer, Edgar Wright seems to continue in the lightness that we know him. A sequence of great mastery, with a sense of frame and rhythm as always perfect. All carried by the young New Zealand actress, who excels from start to finish.
She plays Eloise, a country girl accepted into a London fashion school. Here she sets off for the capital with her head full of dreams and fantasies of the 1960s which she was nourished by her grandmother (via music and fashion). And if she struggles to acclimatize to student life in this big city, at night, in her bed, she finds an escape dreaming of the 1960s and Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a sublime and charismatic blonde who wants to break into the music hall and immediately becomes Eloise’s idol.
Edgar Wright initially seems to want to pay tribute to the pop fashion of the 60’s. The casting presence of ex-Emma Peel from Bowler hat and leather boots, Diana Rigg, deceased on September 10, 2020 and with Last Night in Soho was the last film, is also not insignificant. But unlike others who have been content to observe the past with a nostalgic gaze, the British filmmaker is actually going deconstruct all these fantasies and show a less seductive reality.
Because past a remarkable streak, once again a dance, where Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy pass one after the other in the arms of the elegant Matt Smith, concluded with mirror effects that evoke the Paprika (2006) by Satoshi Kon, the dream turns into a nightmare. Indeed, Sandie’s idyllic life will become more and more murky and hellish. And just falling asleep will cause Eloise’s terror – and ours.
Last Night in Soho, the revival of Edgar Wright
Last Night in Soho then switch to fantastic horror. In the manner of giallo, with a thin border between the real and the imaginary. Don’t look back (1973) is an advertised reference of Edgar Wright. As well as Repulsion (1965) by Polanski. The tension becomes permanent with more and more frequent appearances of ghosts from the past. But behind this genre film proposed by Edgar Wright, it emerges a feminist discourse in the air.
As soon as Eloise arrives in London, the director points to street harassment. And with Sandie, the violence suffered by women against dominant men. Without forgetting this sentence pronounced by Diana Rigg: “women died in all rooms in London“. An interesting take on even in the last twist of the film.
In this way, and accompanied by Krysty Wilson-Cairns on the screenplay, Edgar Wright manages to renew himself. On the one hand, it is faithful to its cinema, through the richness of its staging and its many visual and musical discoveries – from Kinks to Dusty Springfield via Cilla Black or The Who. And at the same time he offers something very different within his filmography.
Less energetic in its transitions and leaving very little room for humor, it also allows Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy to settle completely in the frame. The two…