Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho is about romanticism and the death (often the grisly variety) of it. In this ghost story, the filmmaker pays homage to a far gone thrilling and swinging era in mid 1960s London while maintaining that the nostalgia of those who didn’t live through it might be displaced.
Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) looks at the period from her starry eyes and an ear tuned to its luscious record. She’s only been to present era London as a young girl having grown up in the countryside with her grandmother (Rita Tushingham). Her mother is departed in tragic circumstances that hint she mentally couldn’t handle the glitzy big city life. Her father is as much an apparition as others she encounters.
A college student attending fashion school, Eloise is swiftly out of her element with her snooty dorm mates. Relocating to an upstairs room in a home run by the strict Ms Collins (the late Diana Rigg), her clairvoyance that often includes matriarchal visions moves right along with her. They involve Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer in 1966 whose ambition introduces her to agent Jack (Matt Smith). He’s all charm at first, but darkness lurks with him and many other not so English gentlemen.
As Eloise begins to experience nightly visions of Sandie’s struggles, her own behavior rightfully begins to alarm those in her orbit. That includes John (Michael Ajao), a classmate and potential love interest who’s often the only Londoner that’s kind to her. On the not so nice list is a customer (Terence Stamp) at the local watering hole, a hub of both glamour and glumness 60 years ago, where Eloise works. He might be the key to Sandie’s backstory.
Whether in zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead or Baby Driver (where he figured out a way to make car chases cool again), Wright is a filmmaker with style to spare. Soho is a glorious visual spectacle that shows its work in explaining how Eloise is so taken with the period. And he may be second only to Tarantino nowadays when it comes to killer needle drops in the soundtrack.
Last Night in Soho may not significantly alter the mix in the spirits genre, but Wright certainly has a flair for it. He cheekily employs some British legends like Rigg and Stamp in this ferocious happening. For the former especially, it’s a delicious final role. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy mirror each other in the quality of their performances that grow more terror struck as the clock ticks. Sandie’s London journey begins with hope and ends with her bridge to stardom falling down. Eloise is there to witness it while gasping in horror. We are there to witness Wright at the top of his game.
***1/2 (out of four)