Edgar Wright’s latest film is “Last Night in Soho” is a stylish horror thriller which somehow did not engage me much despite considerable technical efforts shown from the screen. While I initially enjoyed its first half which deftly swings back and forth between two very different worlds, the movie unfortunately stumbles at times during its second half which becomes darker and very unpleasant, and the overall result consequently becomes uneven and artificial in my humble opinion.
Thomasin McKenzie, a promising New Zealander actress who has been more prominent since “Leave No Trace” (2018) and “Jojo Rabbit” (2019), plays Eloise, a young woman who has been living with her grandmother in their rural home near Redruth, Cornwall of England since her mother died many years ago. As shown from the opening scene, Eloise has been aspiring to be a fashion designer someday just like her mother, and she is certainly delighted when she is notified of her enrollment at the London College of Fashion.
With her grandmother’s blessing coupled with some understandable concern, Eloise soon leaves for London. As an innocent girl who has never been there, she cannot help but excited to see new things here and there in the city, but then she is reminded again that there is always considerable possibility of danger for her in the city. At point, she feels like being stalked by a rather suspicious cab driver after he takes her to where the dormitory for her and other students is located, and the mood accordingly becomes a bit unnerving as she tries to evade this creepy dude.
When she eventually arrives in the dormitory, the situation does not get better for her at all. Most of her fellow students including her sassy female roommate are not particularly nice to her at all, and Eloise comes to feel more isolated as a result, but then she comes across a notice on some other place where she can stay instead of her dormitory. It is an old house in Soho which belongs to some old lady, and, once she looks around the room to be rented to her, she instantly decides to move into this room.
However, it soon turns out that there is the other problem in this room besides its shabby interior and those neon lights from a bistro on the first floor. Probably because of her ability to see her mother’s ghost, Eloise finds herself transferred to a young woman living in the same place in 1965 whenever she sleeps in the room at night. Although she is quite baffled at first, she cannot help but attracted more to this inexplicable supernatural experience because she is a big fan of the music and fashion of London during the Swinging Sixties.
However, we instantly sense a certain danger when that young woman, named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), gets herself associated with some charming guy to whom she actively approaches. Sandie has aspired to get a big break for her future entertainer career, and it seems that Jack (Matt Smith) may give her what she has wanted so much. Of course, he turns out to have the other plan for Sandie, and Eloise consequently comes to behold some unpleasant sides of London during that time.
And this increasingly alarming nocturnal experience of hers does not simply remain as bad dreams at all. In addition to being more disturbed night by night, Eloise also comes to see disturbing things even during daytime, and she naturally becomes more terrorized as there is no one to believe what she is going through. Furthermore, it looks like what happened to Sandie during that time is still casting a long shadow over the present, and we come to wonder more about how a certain ominous supporting figure is associated with Sandie.
In the meantime, the movie constantly soaks the screen in lots of mood and style as required, and Wright and his crew members including cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, who has often worked outside South Korea since “Stoker” (2013), did a competent job on the whole. The scenes set in 1965 are filled with authentic period atmosphere and details to be savored, and, as a director who knows well how to use songs effectively and refreshingly for story and characters as shown from his previous film “Baby Driver” (2017), Wright utilizes well a number of notable old pop songs from the 1960s.
However, the screenplay by Wright and his co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns is hampered by thin narrative and superficial characterization, and that weak aspect is more exacerbated during its second half. Mainly because it feels relatively flat and bland compared to the colorful spirit of the 1965 part, the present part does not work well enough as the ground to support the 1965 part except being the perfunctory counterpoint, and the 1965 part only becomes another case of being all style but no substance in the end.
Anyway, the main cast members of the film try to fill their respective roles with each own presence as much as they can. While Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy have some juicy fun as their characters intertwine with each other along the story, Matt Smith looks insidious and untrustworthy as required, and Terence Stamp and Diana Riggs, who sadly died in last year, acquit themselves well despite being stuck in their thankless supporting parts.
In conclusion, “Last Night in Soho” is not entirely without fun and entertainment, but it is a less enjoyable genre exercise than “Baby Driver” and Wright’s other previous works such as “The Shaun of the Dead” (2004) and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010). Yes, I do understand that Wright tries to have a fun as before, but, sadly, the movie does not convey much of his excitement and enthusiasm to me, and that is a disappointment to say the least.