Edgar Wright seems to have been going through what may only be described as an artistic metamorphosis recently. Gone are the Cornetto Trilogy and Baby Driver days of good old quirky, beat-driven, soft comedy/horror/sci-fi. Here, instead, is The Sparks Brothers documentary and Last Night in Soho era, which is probably summarised most easily as a redirection. Whether this is good or bad, of course, is debatable.
Last Night in Soho has been hotly anticipated by audiences for long enough that it’s developed some sort of cult (and blind) popularity. It’s no surprise based on the cast list (Matt Smith, Anya Taylor Joy) and crew, but it definitely makes watching it without misguided expectations more difficult to avoid.
Fortunately, it bears all of the marks of classic Wrightian brilliance. It’s kinetic, visually striking, and obviously, the soundtrack packs a punch. Its pacing is secure, the juxtaposition of Ellie and Sandy’s narratives effective and nicely interwoven at points as Wright renders Soho in a manner that’s engrossingly vivid and appropriately surreal.
Really though, the most noticeable element is Odile Mireaux-Dicks’ costumes. From Ellie’s magazine dress in the opening scene to Sandy’s white PVC trench and bright pink tent dress combination, it’s any sixties fashion fan’s dream. Halloween 2022, anyone?
For all its merits though, there are discussions to be had about some of the more problematic aspects of the film: the implication of hereditary mental health issues being the root of Ellie’s visions, the discourse around victimhood and revenge, and Thomasin MacKenzie’s ‘Cornwall’ accent.
The dialogue has a tendency to be fairly clunky and the subplots are often under-developed and incomplete – I don’t know about you but if a coursemate tried to stab me with fabric shears I wouldn’t be clapping for them at our grad show.
Despite these faults, it is still very much worth a watch. It’s refreshing to see Wright approach a more female-dominated story, and his representation of experiences of feeling unsafe and preyed upon felt considered in their construction. It’s Promising Young Woman meets Killing Eve meets the je ne sais quoi of Wright. But if you take anything away from it, don’t study at UAL.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr