This article contains slight spoilers for “Last Night in Soho”.
“When you’re lonely and life makes you lonely, you can always go… downtown,” sings the lyrics to Petula Clark’s 1964 song “Downtown”. This is a backing track and “theme song” from Edgar Wright’s latest film, “Last Night in Soho”, singing an escape to a better time, place and life beyond. of the realities of the present.
“Last Night in Soho”, tells the story of a young fashion design student, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who after moving to London begins to have dreams where she experiences the life of an aspiring singer. in the 1960s named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). At first, Eloise is enchanted by her supernatural escape into a world so rich in charm, music and excitement far from the monotony and brutality of her modern life. However, as those dreams continue, she realizes that her 1960s idolatry might be misplaced, as the shrouded darkness was deeply ingrained in the streets of London long before she arrived. It’s a film about dreams (literally and figuratively) and the destruction of one’s aspirations and idealism by societal pressure.
Culture shock plays a crucial role in Eloise and Sandie’s stories. They realize that their respective ambitions may not lead them further into a reality that contrasts with their enhanced and perfect image of show business and of London itself. Eloise was born and raised in the countryside, and her dreams of becoming a fashion designer coincide with her dreams of city living. Yet when she finally gets there, she immediately encounters a kinky taxi driver, bullying students, and the constant hustle and bustle of the city. When her reality does not meet her expectations, she runs away in despair. She discovers an old dilapidated apartment where she literally escapes through her dreams to the world of her fantasy. Wright juxtaposes the dream world with reality using a contrasting color palette that clashes with the cool, dark grays of modern London and the warm yellows and bright lights of the 1960s. Thanks to Sandie, she steps into a high-end club. range where she meets the charming Jack (Matt Smith), who appears as this knight in shining armor who offers to help her start her singing career. In a horrific turn of events, Sandie realizes that Jack had no intention of helping her and that he was just preparing her to prostitute herself. This harsh realization comes too late and she is unable to escape this life.
With their dreams seemingly shattered, the two women struggle as their sense of identity begins to unravel. In response to this, they try to create different faces to replace their loss of identity. Repeatedly throughout the film, Wright recreates this visually, whether through a dizzying effect or through mirrors. There are scenes where a character’s eyes adjust to the person in front of them, and their faces part as the lens tries to focus. This is reflected in the way in which certain characters are lit by neon lights and then duplicated during the editing and superimposed, to give this image of “seeing double” in various scenes. Meanwhile, in other scenes, Sandie might descend a staircase next to a row of mirrors, where Eloise appears as much, watching the story unfold. Through their respective losses of innocence as they are exposed to this city, they attempt to form personalities to conform to the world around them, Eloise abandoning the “homemade” aspect of her past in exchange for a store-bought aesthetic that matches Sandie’s appearances. in his dreams. Sandie, meanwhile, has many names and faces when she meets clients.
In doing so, both lose sight of their ambitions and ultimate intentions, and only by looking at each other in a mirror can they reflect and remember who they were before their transformation. Repeatedly, Sandie refuses to look into the glass where Eloise desperately calls her, begging her to get out of this life. It’s only towards the end that Eloise realizes that it was the world around Sandie that pushed her into this corner. This is represented by the faceless ghosts of Sandie’s clients haunting Eloise’s dreams, and the realization of these monsters leads Eloise to turn the call on Sandie into a call of fury against these spirits.
This incredibly complex narrative is presented by cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (“Oldboy”, “The Handmaiden”, “It”) as he captures the black shadows and red and blue neon lights that light up this darkness. In addition to showing this image of contrast in identity, the lights also act as a way to present the notion of modernity as opposed to the more natural lighting of the past. It is even seen outside of those dreams, as Eloise and her friend John go to a Halloween party filled with neon lights and glow sticks. This heightened chaotic, rave-like atmosphere contrasts sharply with the formalities that seem to be present in traditional clubs in Sandie’s past.
This film also represents Edgar Wright’s continuing shift in filmmaking outside of his popular action comedies. Previously, it was popularized due to its iconic “Three Flavors Cornetto” trilogy (“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz”, “The World’s End”) and its comic book adaptation of “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World “. In 2017, he would move on to an action heist movie where he used much of his quick style and quick edits via “Baby Driver”. “Last Night in Soho” is new territory for Wright as he directs a horror and thriller film. It easily contains the darkest and most mature themes ever explored in his filmography, but he finds ways to incorporate elements of his previous work into this new tone. Rather than being used for humor or exciting action, he uses it to develop strong feelings by telling these multiple plots and this captivating mystery. Those quick cuts and that quick camera increase the intensity of the reality line blurring as Eloise finds herself switching between her dream world and reality.
While the dramatic / romantic aspect of “Last Night in Soho” was nothing we’ve never seen before, it delivers a truly unique take on the horror genre that tackles dark themes in a visually stunning way. and captivating.
“Last Night in Soho” is available in theaters from October 29, 2021.