Review: Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright’s writing and cinematography shine in his departure from comedy


Poster for Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho”

Edgar Wright is one of the most accomplished comedy writer-directors of all time. He has a case to be considered the most influential British filmmaker of the 21st century, but maybe the biggest knock on him was the lack of variety in genre.

This is, not a great take. While “Baby Driver” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, ” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” “The World’s End” are all comedies, they are entirely different movies and each take on a different genre that compliments the comedic aspect of the films.

“Scott Pilgrim” is a comedy in the form of a comic-book movie. “Shaun of the Dead” is a zombie movie, “Hot Fuzz” is a buddy-cop movie and “World’s End” has aliens. None of these movies are alike in any way.

However, Wright must have decided that he needed to replace some laughs with scares, and that’s exactly what he does with “Last Night in Soho.”

The film tells the story of a young girl named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) who moves to London to study fashion and begins experiencing visions of London in the 1960s through the eyes of an aspiring starlet named Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy.)

Any fans of old-school slashers, European horror films and 20th century aesthetics will fall in love with this movie. All Edgar Wright movies have great cinematography, but the visuals of this film are truly stunning. Wright has never come close to a visual feast as complete as this one, you could watch the film on mute and still enjoy it a good deal.

That would rob you of a pretty tight script, however. Wright’s screenplays are usually guided by a rapid pace of jokes that keeps the audience laughing, but he chose not to go that route here. The jokes are still there, but fewer and farther between and much more subtle than they’ve been in his past movies. Instead of having you laugh at what characters say, Wright wants you to notice their behavior and laugh at that instead.

I will say that not every part of the script is perfect. Comedies allow for exposition to be told through witty, funny dialogue and banter. Combined with the visual element that Wright excels at, this has led to masterworks in comedic storytelling, “Scott Pilgrim” being my favorite example. “Soho” doesn’t have the same comedic advantage, and therefore relies more heavily on visual storytelling. This is at its most effective in the first act, when we’re still learning about our characters and getting lots of visual information about them in a short amount of time.

This doesn’t happen perfectly throughout the film, as there are several key character developments that are revealed through expository dialogue, something that I’m not a fan of, and something I imagine Wright isn’t a fan of either. There are some parts of the script that I think could have been tightened up, which makes me think that some changes may have been made during photography due to unexpected circumstances.

The performances are very good. Fans of “Queen’s Gambit” will enjoy a very appealing performance from Anya Taylor-Joy, who has turned her charisma up to its highest setting for this role. Thomasin McKenzie is the best part of this film, however, and her character growth could very well be the most impressive aspect of this film’s storytelling.

The visuals are most the important part of this film, however, and Wright knocked that aspect out of the park. Even the most trivial shots are handled with care, and the important shots are breathtaking. Color, environment, light and rain are used to excellent effect, and old-school cinephiles will point out countless references to classic European horror such as the films of Dario Argento.

It’s an inspired effort and an excellent cinematic experience. If this seems like a film you’d enjoy, I would recommend seeing it in theaters. The big screen lets one truly appreciate the details Wright hides in the background, leading to story tidbits and hints that may be particularly revelatory to attentive viewers.

“Last Night in Soho” is currently playing in theaters throughout the greater Savannah area.