Last Night in Soho Review

PLOT: A young woman (Thomasin McKenzie) obsessed with the British Invasion era sixties, travels to London to attend fashion design school. She rents a room in Soho that once belonged to an aspiring singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) and finds herself living a glamorous sixties life through the eyes of the former tenant. However, she soon discovers the sixties weren’t all that glamorous and soon the past and present begin to collide in dangerous ways. 

LOWDOWN:  Last Night in Soho is director Edgar Wright operating at the peak of his talents. A glamorous ode to the sixties that’s wise enough to acknowledge that underneath the fashion, movies and music they may not have been all that great after all, this allows Wright to branch out a bit into darker territory. While he’s toyed with the horror genre with Shaun of the Dead, he’s never gone as heavy into the genre as he does here. Part Giallo-inspired horrror, part psychological thriller and all cool, Last Night in Soho is widely entertaining from the first frame to the last.

It’s also his first film to have female protagonists, and he’s got himself two terrific young actresses to play his leads; the down-to-earth and intensely likeable Thomasin McKenzie and the glamorous and purposefully aloof Anya Taylor-Joy. At least here, they’re a study in contrasts, and the two play well off each other even if by design they’re rarely on-screen together. Rather, it feels like each is starring in their own mini-movie. 

McKenzie’s Eloise Turner is a terrific creation by Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917). Having grown up enamoured with 1960’s London thanks to her grandmother’s incfluence (Rita Tushingham – a sixties film icon who starred in Richard Lester’s The Knack…and How to Get It) she’s unusual to put it lightly. She often sees her dead mother’s reflection in the mirror looking back at her, and seems a little naive for the coked-up excess of the London Fashion institute she finds herself a student of. 

For Mckenzie, this is only the latest in a slew of great roles, including Leave No Trace, Jojo Rabbit and Old. She’s so compelling and likeable that she’ll likely rocket to top of the Hollywood A-list in short order. By contrast, Anya Taylor-Joy’s sixties singer, Sandie is even more naive in her own way. Using her extreme beauty to get what she wants, namely musical stardom, she hitches her wagon to Matt Smith’s Jack, a dashing ladies man/man about town, who proves to be a lot more than she can handle. 

Wright gets a lot darker here that he ever has in his other movies, depicting Sandie’s degradation in a nightmarish manner. It’s a harsher film than he’s ever done, but true to Wright it’s also a lot of fun and filled with dazzling set pieces. Music has always been essential to his films and, similar to Baby Driver, it feels like he’s toying with making a full-fledged musical at some point. There are several show-stopping music moments, such as Taylor-Joy’s performance of Petula Clark’s Downtown, the inclusion of the Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tick song that the film borrows it name from and dozens more. The music in this film is dazzling, as is the score by Steven Price. 

The supporting cast is an ace mix of British sixties icons like Tushingham, Terrence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her last role as the landlady at McKenzie’s bed-sit (and what a great role it is), and newcomers such as Michael Ajao as a fellow design student head over heels for McKenzie (who wouldn’t be?). Matt Smith is terrific too in a rare unsympathetic turn. Also watch out for a few nifty nods to James Bond, with a huge Thunderball poster featured prominently, while everyone drinks the Vesper Martini created by Ian Fleming in the novel Casino Royale

GORE: Initially, the gore quotient here seems light, with Wright emphasizing psychological terror – at least at first. The look of the film is heavily inspired by Dario Argento, and like the master there’s one or two massively gory setpieces that took the TIFF crowd by surprise with audible gasps. There aren’t buckets of blood – maybe one bucket tops, but it’s used well.

BOTTOM LINE: While I can’t say I found Last Night in Soho scary (I’m not sure it was intended to be) its nonetheless a visceral thrill ride that had me hooked from the first frame until the last. Wright is a master of modern cinema, and this is a film filled with a passionate love of cinema and the sixties that’s hard to resist. 

last night in soho review

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.