"I just wish I was like everybody else."
Edgar Wright has always had a knack for music. Curating some of the most cinematic and complete soundtracks of the last several decades, the respected director and screenwriter often creates with music in mind. Last Night in Soho gets its name from a Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tish hit of the 1960s. The English beat band fits the film's vibe beautifully, proving once again that Wright knows his music.
Set in present-day London, Elouise (Thomasin McKenzie) has received an acceptance letter into a prestigious fashion school. Unfortunately, her first impressions leave much to be desired, prompting independently-minded Ellie to move off campus to better focus and execute her designs. But at night, amid the blinking florescent sign outside, she mysteriously enters the 1960s where she occasionally embodies and occasionally watches Sandie, an intoxicating wannabe singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) who possesses the confidence and style to warrant your attention.
The uniqueness of the back and forth drives the narrative as the film transitions from a coming-of-age tale to one of psychological terror. Captivated with her dreams, Ellie pulls from the past, finding increasing inspiration in the sights and sounds she witnesses when she pulls the sheets over her head.
Audiences will feel the pull as well. Wright exquisitely recreates the glitz and glamour of the era, capturing the hustle and bustle of the city through the eyes of two women, each differently overtaken by the city's scale. The mirrored scenes are technically flawless, providing countless cinematic opportunities that Wright more than delivers on. The balance between the two worlds adds a layer of complexity to the story, allowing the city itself to become an additional character as our two leads navigate the streets searching for a purpose.
When Ellie's visits turn more violent, a moment that coincides with Sandie's career stalling after she mislays her trust in a bar manager (Matt Smith), the two worlds begin to fold into one another. While influence was the primary drive at the onset, obsession has taken its place with vigor.
Ellie takes a job at a local pub to pay for a vintage dress she saw Sadie wear in one of her dreams. To that effect, she has an intoxication with Sandie's life and is distraught at her newfound struggles. When faceless men begin to chase her, bringing the horrors of the once romantic era home, we find Ellie running through alleys and backstreets in an attempt to evade their capture. But no one else sees the men.
The film's conclusion is quite apparent early on. As a result, the third act falters, especially from a story perspective. But the energy and style on display cannot be understated. Set design, wardrobe, lighting - the below-the-line creators are in top form as they complete the look and feel that gives Last Night in Soho its edge. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy harmonize supremely, coming together to form a truly unique and stimulating experience. But alas, Wright still leaves quite a bit on the table.