‘Last Night in Soho’ is a mod, stylish departure for director Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright discards his kinetic style in this genre-bending, time-hopping psychological thriller starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie

Brad Keefe
Matt Smith stars as Jack and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s "Last Night in Soho."

Among directors I will follow anywhere, there are those who have such a distinctive style it’s almost as if they find new ways to make the same movie over and over.

An obvious example would be Wes Anderson, whose latest movie, “The French Dispatch,” was not screened in advance for Columbus critics this week. Reviews are calling it one of the most Wes Anderson-iest movies Wes Anderson has ever Wes Andersoned.

English director Edgar Wright would have fallen into this category. The “Scott Pilgrim” director’s fast-paced, kinetic style is so signature, even this year’s music documentary “The Sparks Brothers” felt like an Edgar Wright film through and through.

Side plug: “Sparks Brothers” just hit Netflix this week. It’s one of the year’s best, so do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP.

That’s what made Wright’s latest film, “Last Night in Soho,” feel like such a departure. I thought I knew what to expect and got something rather different.

“Soho” centers on Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a meek, small-town mouse and aspiring fashion designer who gets accepted into a fashion design program in London.

Eloise is very close to her grandmother after the death of her own mother when she was young. She feels a bit out of place on campus, a fact that’s exacerbated by her mean girl roommate.

So Eloise decides to get her own one-room apartment in the heart of London’s Soho district. One night, seemingly in a dream, she’s transported back to 1960s-era Soho, where she encounters Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a lively aspiring singer who exudes all of the confidence Eloise is missing.

From this point on, “Soho” becomes a time-hopping psychological thriller that dips its toes in multiple genres. Wright enjoys playing in different sandboxes here, and the genre-bending feels confident rather than a sign of a movie that can’t decide what it wants to be.

Whether you’ll be along for the ride is a matter of expectation. There are great moments of tension and scares, but I wouldn’t expect a horror movie by any stretch.

This is also Wright’s first female-led story, and he co-wrote the screenplay with “1917” screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns. It’s a needed perspective for some serious themes that are touched on (without giving anything away here).

McKenzie is a fine lead conveying both the reserved side of Eloise and her emerging confident connection to Sandie. Taylor-Joy, continuing her breakout post-”Queen’s Gambit,” is a throwback scene-stealer. In fact, she so imbibes the '60s spirit, she’s nearly in danger of being typecast.

This is also Wright’s most visually sumptuous film to date, a gorgeous bath of primary colors with a stylized, vintage quality. It’s his love letter to films of the era depicted in those flashbacks.

The style is so enamoring I already feel like this one will require a second viewing to unpack. I’m certain “Soho” will feel like a miss to some people, but I’m here for whatever unexpected turns Wright takes as a director next.

“Last Night in Soho”

Now playing in theaters

4 stars out of 5