While Last Night in Soho (in theatres Oct. 29) is a departure from Edgar Wright’s previous movies, including the cult classic Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End), this film transports you into the enticing world of 1960s London, with actors Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith guiding us through this mysterious journey.
Wright actually started to develop the idea for Last Night in Soho more than a decade ago and walked co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns through the story on a night out in London's Soho neighbourhood.
“We were having dinner opposite a strip club that I used to live above...and we started talking about just our mutual love for Soho because it's such a specific place, it's the centre of the entertainment industry but it’s also very seedy,” Wilson-Cairns told Yahoo Canada.
“Then we went on a night out where I took [Wright] to some of the seedy bars that bartenders go to and Edgar actually told me the story from this dingy basement bar, and I was just totally and utterly entranced.”
'I can't think of anything more frightening than the patriarchy'
The movie follows Eloise (McKenzie), who has an affinity for all things retro, and moves to London to go to fashion school. Trying to navigate her pursuit of a fashion career while living with her vivacious roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), the pair don't really really see eye to eye, so Eloise makes the decision to move out and live on her own. She ends up in a rented room in an old house owned by landlady Ms. Collins (the late Diana Rigg).
It’s at this point that Eloise's real love for the 1960s is explored, meeting the seductive Sandie (Taylor-Joy) and charming Jack (Smith), leading to the main question of the film — would you and should you go back in time?
“People talk about, ‘oh the good old days,’ as if there’s some magical decade where everything was perfect and nothing bad happened and of course, that's just a fallacy,” Wright told Yahoo Canada.
“I always grew up sort of obsessed with the '60s but then when you start to look into it more, you realize that what you're usually presented with is just sort of the best of what happened… A lot of the movie is me trying to sort of cure myself of my own obsessions.”
In tandem with that idea, Last Night in Soho also tackles the exploitation of women and the history of misogyny in society, something that Wilson-Cairns believes strengthens the film’s horror theme, while also being a sort of cultural commentary.
“I think really good horror, or thriller, should tap into real fears and I can't think of anything more frightening than the patriarchy or exploitation of women,” she said. “Putting in that very real fear, I thought, was a stroke of genius and I very much want to be part of it.”
“With women in the '60s, there's a lot of talk about how great the fashion was and that comes around every few years, and everyone obsesses over it, but you don’t think about the fact that women couldn’t even have their own credit card in the '60s."
Wright added that from his perspective, he always felt very “affected” by the idea of “the tragic left turn.”
“Just one night can ruin your life, being in the right place but at the wrong time, or being in the right place and meeting the wrong person,” he explained. “There are probably and unfortunately thousands of those stories [from] that time that we'll never hear."
“There’s a real sort of sense of loss of things that could have been.”
What’s particularly interesting in Last Night in Soho is the way the movie very specifically exposes these fears and horrors of the past in a fictional, genre format.
“I’m never snobby, obviously, about genres and stuff and in a way, I think maybe you reach a different audience because there might be people who would watch a thriller or horror film, that would not watch a documentary or drama on the same subject,” Wright explained.
“The best of genre films can be like a trojan horse where you can kind of sneak in some real-world issues.”
Hidden personal stories in 'Last Night in Soho'
While there are certainly large themes being dealt with in Last Night in Soho, both Wright and Wilson-Cairns were able to slip in some interesting Easter eggs, calling back to their own personal lives.
“There's a line in the film, which somebody said to me at a party," Wright revealed.
"It was at a house party of a girl I really had a crush on and I put The Kinks on and this other guy from my year,...he was appalled that I was playing like old music and he literally said the line that goes, ‘who put this granny shit on?' I've never recovered from that.”
This concept of dropping Easter eggs for yourself, as a writer, is not new to Wilson-Cairns who shared that in the critically acclaimed movie 1917, every character is named after one of her friends. In Last Night in Soho, she revealed that there are a lot of nods to her grandparents.
“Actually, there's a picture of them outside the Criterion Restaurant from the '60s and they were too poor to eat inside it,” she shared. “It just makes things real to me when I watch them and hopefully to the audience as well.”
Aside from crushes of the past, Wright also personally connects to Eloise as someone finally making the move to the big city and feeling quite out of place.
“For so many people going into the big city is a very lonely, forbidding experience and you feel like you can’t get a foothold, you feel like everybody, even people your age, are so way ahead of you,” Wright said. “I think I still have imposter syndrome 26 years later, I know people might consider me part of the establishment in London, but I don’t.”
“You feel like to fit in ... You kind of have to have the individuality beaten out of you,...which of course isn't the answer. So those things were very vivid to me and Krysty… Eloise, she retreats from modern life, so the allure of going back in time is more appetizing at that moment.”
Listen for Anya Taylor-Joy's voice
Last Night in Soho is visually stunning, with impressive images of London’s famed Soho neighbourhood and intoxicating, dream-like scenes, that almost look like magic tricks, that lure you into this obsessive state as a viewer.
Of course, we can’t mention one of Wright’s films without mentioning how music is paired with these captivating images. Wright worked with Steven Price on the music to take the audience straight back to the 1960s, providing a full sensory experience in every scene.
“In this particular case, [Price] did some cues before we even started making the movie, so that was great because we could actually sometimes play that music during auditions, or play it on set,” Wright said. “It's interesting how it changes people's performances.”
Another interesting thing to listen for in the score is Taylor-Joy stepping in as a sort of session singer.
“If you listen to the score, and you hear these kind of breathy ‘La, Las’ and stuff, that's Anya Taylor-Joy's voice,” Wright revealed. “I can’t really think of another movie where the lead actress also did the vocals for the score.”
Earlier this year, Taylor-Joy described Last Night in Soho as "a very well-directed acid trip" in an interview with Tatler, which is a pretty spot-on description from one of the movie's stars. Whether you're a fan of Wright's previous films, a fan of all things from the 1960s or just someone looking for a new psychological thriller, Last Night in Soho is a captivating journey.