When 1960s-obsessed fashion student, Ellie Turner (as played by Thomasin McKenzie) is accepted at London’s prestigious College of Fashion, it’s like a dream come true. Yet, that’s not the only dream that Ellie’s used to experiencing.
Well accustomed to seeing her suicidal mother invading her waking moments, Ellie also is transported to London’s swinging 60s inside her dreams each night. Yet, 1960s London turns out to be not so golden, as Ellie’s waking dreams and real-life anxieties violently clash around an unsolved murder.
From its opening scene with actress Rita Tushingham, and later with Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp fully on board, Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho has bags of instant 1960s pedigree. Luxuriant and high on period detail, the music cues echo Ellie’s choices and the movie runs on rails for the first hour.
Dropping you down later into its time-travelling rabbit hole, Ellie follows Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie, an ambitious cabaret singer, as they walk side by side in alternate universes. Perfectly reflected throughout, the camera moves with each actor performing opposite one another and the effect is beyond anything that you’re used to seeing with a green screen. Throw in also director Edgar Wright’s appetite for detail and fans of Baby Driver and his other movies are definitely going to find a lot to enjoy.
Seen in comparison to Julien Temple’s 1986 lush homage Absolute Beginners, Last Night In Soho aims for a vision of the 1960s with a deliberately decaying sodium hue. For just as Ellie’s world turns upside down in a sublime needle-drop moment using Siouxsie and The Banshee’s Happy House, ghost-like figures tumble out of the 1960s much akin to 1990’s Jacob’s Ladder. And here, if there is a weakness to be found, is the movie’s tone. I’ll explain.
As a director Edgar Wright, like to do two things: mix genres and lace his movies with well crafted-nods to previous films that have inspired him – and that’s all fine and he does it fantastically well. Nevertheless within both these fascinations lies a problem. In attempting to mix genres mid-film, it potentially weakens the movie’s overall impact. Last Night In Soho is meant to be a horror film. However, it isn’t that scary. Also when you start to recognise all its in-jokes, then those risk becoming your focus rather than the main story and its characters.
That all said, Last Night In Soho is a really, fine film with great stylish flair, breath-taking special effects and superb performances to match. So, if you want to forget all your troubles, and forget all your cares, then I suggest you head Downtown with Edgar Wright. He’s waiting for you and things will be great…0