• Festivals

“Last Night in Soho” Wright Back to the Sixties

Ever since Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead) moved to London 25 years ago, he candidly admits, he’s had a conflicted relationship with the British capital. The Poole, Dorset, native spent more time hanging out in the Soho district than he did on any of the couches in his home; so, making a film about the renowned London neighborhood almost became inescapable to him. That film destiny became Last Night in Soho, which had its world premiere at the 78th annual Venice Film Festival.

Playing with multiple genres, the story focuses on Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), whom we meet in her teenage bedroom, dancing to the beats of an impressive collection of 1960s music, tunes that will play a pivotal role throughout the film. Her dream is to become a fashion designer and when she is given a letter by her grandmother (Rita Tushingham), she discovers she has been accepted to the prestigious London Fashion School and soon off she goes. Not only does she pack her suitcase and record player but takes along a special gift as well, her ability to see her deceased mother.

London proves a culture shock for the new student, especially in the form of her verbally tormenting roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) so she decides to rent a room in a flat of Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg, in what would be her last screen appearance). But when Ellie lies down to go to sleep, strange occurrences begin to happen, as she is transported back to mid 196’s London – where a movie marquee showcasing the new release of Thunderball immediately lets us know we are in another time. It is there her life becomes intertwined with Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) and the film slowly segues from a comedic romp to what appears could be a slow descent into psychological madness. But to give away more would spoil the inventiveness of the plot.

“It might seem like there’s a lot in common between me and Eloise,” Wright revealed during a press event at the festival. “I grew up with my parents’ record box. Their record collection was quite slim, but it was all 60s records and it seemed to stop dead as soon as they had my big brother. So, I was just obsessed with these records and in a similar way in the movie, the music of the time is like my time machine to go back.”

Wright began his 2017 crime drama Baby Driver with a five-and-a-half-minute syncopated robbery and car chase all choreographed to the song ‘Bellbottoms’ driving the scene forward. He further explores that musical design with Last Night in Soho.

A full decade before he and fellow screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns began writing the film, Wright took his initial idea for the story and began constructing the soundtrack. Each time he heard one of those songs it served as a gentle reminder over the years that, he needed to make the movie. “I would literally hear the opening of R.D Taylor’s “There’s a Ghost in My House” and remind myself I have to make this film. It was the sort of thing where I have a film version of synesthesia, where I hear a song and I start thinking of the scene.”

Those scenes are driven by musical classics of such 1960s artists as Peter and Gordon, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black and, of course, Petula Clark:  her iconic ‘Downtown’ becomes a driving force of the film