Staunch Test FAIL.
Last Night in Soho is a Staunch Test Fail. There’s violence against women and sexual exploitation.
This is by far the most grounded of Edgar Wright’s films. That’s not to say that it tackles any pertinent social issue. It does evoke a myriad of them, sure, but nothing really goes beyond the fore. And it is to its detriment when it eventually falls under its own weight in the final act where even Wright’s pristine filmmaking can’t seem to be able to save it.
The film picks up in the countryside where Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), currently living with her grandmother under the shadow of her mother’s death, has ambitions of moving to London to pursue her dreams of joining the London College of Fashion and becoming a designer. She gets admitted to her dream school, and what follows is the best part of the film as she struggles to adapt to the big city.
At her college dorm, she gets fed up with the microaggressions from her mean roommate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen) and decides to move to an out-of-campus bedsit. She then immediately starts having vivid dreams where she travels back in time to the 60s and embodies the previous owner of the bedsit, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who has goals of becoming a singer. In these increasingly lucid dreams, Ellie seemingly acts as a medium to Sandie, whose exciting life as a singer on her way up sees her dragged involuntarily into the world of sex work.
The film does have convincing enough performances and that helps the audience to keep a grip on the narrative as it transitions into horror. But ultimately that’s not enough. The leaps in logic are just too wide to be taken seriously and by the final third of the film, you start questioning certain plot contrivances instead of being surprised by the twists and turns. And once you start asking yourself questions such as how exactly the time travel concept works in this film, then that sadly means nothing else important is going on on the screen.
It also tries to incorporate certain elements of social thrillers, but it feels quite vacuous because it immediately becomes clear that the film has nothing to say about them except that it happens. They’re simply used to solicit more jump scares, unlike carefully layered modern social thrillers like Get Out where every single story beat was bursting at the seams with commentary. Last Night in Soho is a popcorn flick that’s dressed up as something deeper.
This is a misfire but an honourable one. It looks phenomenal, it’s scary when it needs to be, and funnier than it has any right to be. But when a film tries to tackle real-world issues it should not handle them lightly. It is form over function. #Staunch Test Fail.