Film reviewed by Pete Messum
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword in Last Night in Soho – the latest from director Edgar Wright, in his film co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, as we follow the life of Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer who journeys back to 1965 where she finds herself strangely connected with the life of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is trying to build a career as a successful singer in the clubs of Soho. As Sandie’s life spirals, her connection with Eloise sends the latter into a desperate search to discover exactly what happened over fifty years ago. The past can’t remain a distant memory if you keep returning to it…
Last Night in Soho is probably the least quintessentially Edgar Wright-esque picture in the director’s filmography – but it does remain filled with his passion for music, pacing and attention to detail. It was only until the latter half of the film that you really begin to appreciate how intricate the plotting is, which means this definitely deserves a rewatch. Wright’s use of sound design has always been a key component in his filmmaking and this is no different, a recent Q&A with composer Steven Price and editor Paul Machliss, both reiterated the importance of sound in constructing the mood and pace of the film.
It’s also important to point out how good this looks, as the film is filled with vibrant colours and dynamic camerawork from Chung-hoon Chung, and together with the period costumes and production design showcasing the talent on display in every frame. Thomasin McKenzie is brilliant as Eloise, endearing and naïve, and never defined by her more eccentric qualities. She’s an incredibly talented actress, and really manages to go through the whole gamut of emotions in a character that’s tough to pin down but feels quite real – whether it be the feeling of detachment from her classmates at the fashion school or her passion for the 60’s. The way the film cuts between shots of her and Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie is seamless (with my favourite trick easily being the shots of one in the foreground and the other reflected in mirrors). Taylor-Joy herself is wonderfully charismatic, while Matt Smith gets a chance to play a role removed from Doctor Who.
If there are any issues, it’s with the more spoiler-y elements: some audience members may see the big twists coming from a mile away, while the more fantastical elements of the story are left (purposefully) unexplained in a way that may frustrate some, but I was swept-up in the ride and those aspects didn’t bother me too much. This is a film with a lot of secrets, so we won’t go too deep but as well as three great leads, there are also great supporting turns from the late Diana Rigg, plus Terence Stamp, Michael Ajao and Rita Tushingham.
Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho is an engaging story, wonderful visuals (the location work really adds verisimilitude) and a terrific sound design: a complete package. There are even a few scary bits too…
Special Features reviewed by Dan Bullock
As you’d expect with Wright, the depth of involvement, and the nature of every specific shot and filmmaking plan, is vast. The Blu-ray gives you the treat of over an hour and a half of extras to delve through – and there’s so much insight that it makes the whole story even more clever. I wanted to highlight a few things from these but won’t spoil everything, like we shouldn’t spoil the film if you haven’t seen it yet! (And this applies to every film out there, if it’s new)
The bonus features initially dive into Meet Eloise (McKenzie) with Wright and co-writer Wilson-Cairns, which highlights the links between the character and Thomasin herself, being the same age and coming from a world outside of London, just as Edgar felt (and occasionally feels) being someone who comes to London, rather than grows up there – and I also definitely understand that! It also delves into the depth of the character build, and how close all these elements were to the filmmakers themselves.
Dreaming of Sandie offers us a look into Taylor-Joy’s involvement, with Matt Smith‘s character Jack. Sandie has similar desires in life to Eloise but they’re very different in personality. Interestingly, we learn that Edgar actually told Anya about Last Night in Soho but this was just after The Witch, and so she was unintentionally always linked to being a part of the film.
Smoke and Mirrors – Once you’ve seen LNIS, then you’ll know the trickery but also the very distinct colour schemes that represent the 60s, up against the present day. And that’s fascinating throughout. There was a really interesting discussion in the Q&A, that Pete mentions above, regarding the blue, white, red colour scheme of sound, light, music and timing for all of these element in one. They do talk about the haunting ‘male characters’ but as much as I do see the dark element, I was still distracted by their overuse in places, it’s still interesting to listen to how they were created though.
On the Streets of Soho – The team did something a little different here, they shot on location in Soho and if you know the area, then this part is VITAL but seeing it all on screen is superb and I love seeing the corners, those hidden alleyways, the neon in the reflections of the rain and windows, and even the real The Toucan pub involved in the film. These bits make all of it extra special, it was ambitious and it definitely works, and you can visit it at any time you like!
You’ve also got more insight on their Time Travelling, in terms of taking us back to the 60s, the importance of song choices, Wright’s known style of writing with music and script, so we always have those beats, those bigger pictures and all of that as one. There’s no doubt it’s wonderfully achieved on tha side of the process. Other extras include deleted scenes, a look at a selection of animatics, the ‘Downtown‘ music video with a resplendent Anya Taylor-Joy, and more extras delving into hair and make-up tests, lighting and VFX tests, rehearsals and even more really unique insights and alternate takes of a couple of scenes.
And, yes there’s more, the bonus-bonus Feature Commentary with Wright, Editor Paul Machliss and Composer Steven Price PLUS, another feature commentary with Wright and Wilson-Cairns. Truly remarkable filmmaking insight, and not a drop of production team are missed off the rota, this type of coverage would be great for every film of this quality.