Edgar Wright directs and co-writes one of his most ambitious works to date, playing with genre in this nod-packed thriller that still preserves his own particular hallmark.

Every evocation, every homage to a time or a period implicitly entails hues of idealization as we look back and turn those past beings, their settings and their soundtracks into a dream in which we would happily remain for the rest of our lives. And maybe, that’s because in the real world, in the present, we feel out of context, slightly out of orbit. When we imagine the past, we don’t question what the spotlights, curtains and smiles embedded in our collective memories might be hiding, no, we just take it for granted that those specific codes and particular protagonists all worked seamlessly. Just like a mirror in which the reflection is always better than reality itself, but if we went through it we were to step through the glass, we’d soon discover that beyond our reflections lie fears we dare not face.

In ‘Last Night in Soho’, author of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Baby Driver’, Edgar Wright directs and co-writes one of his most ambitious works to date, a fable which dynamites our tendency to believe that any past time was better. This is the B-side of nostalgia, the truth about those anonymous faces in old photos, a journey to the darkest corners of perception. Wright presents us with an addictive, disturbing and unclassifiable journey (playing with an infinity of genres and nods all the while maintaining an identity of its own) in which he breaks with numerous conventions, from the romanticism we automatically associate with every apparently loving landscape, to the painful objectification of iconic women. Unfortunately, the film is unlikely to garner the kudos it deserves, even though its uniqueness will almost definitely guarantee its cult status.

As in previous works, Wright builds a seemingly run-of-the-mill world that begins to crumble before our eyes as the scene becomes imbued with the supernatural and disturbing. Our protagonist, Eloise, is a young aspiring fashion designer, fascinated by the aesthetics of the 60’s who makes the trip down to London to study at the London College of Fashion and thus achieve her life goal. Upon arriving, she soon realizes her new roommates are not what she expected, so she ends up renting a room in an older woman’s house. One night, believing she’s dreaming, or maybe because she is actually dreaming, she discovers she has the ability to travel back in time to 1960’s Soho, where she becomes infatuated with a wannabe singer who in turn has his eyes set on making her a star. However, her relationship and the events that follow soon reveal a mystery that becomes more unpredictable and terrifying by the minute.

‘Last Night in Soho’ really leaps before looking time and time again, landing perfectly almost every time. Wright meticulously builds an all-enveloping atmosphere nurtured by visual discoveries (the use of mirrors, a vital feature here as a narrative resource and discourse synthesis), redesigning the mechanisms of the thriller to trap us in a web of memories and truths and annihilate any temptation we might have had to situate the story and its protagonists in anything even remotely resembling a nostalgic light. This is a tale of the perversity of how we see the past through tinted glass and to what extent this can attenuate the echoes of immensely painful truths. The director’s technical wizardry in staging knowns no bounds, above all, in its musical configuration, in which specific tunes, rather than appealing to the complicity of the viewer, take on nightmare overtones that’ll have you fearing you might not wake up from. And then of course, there’s the stunning cast featuring Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg (the ideal swansong for the 60’s icon who passed away soon after, and to whom the movie is movingly dedicated) and an absolutely unforgettable Anya Taylor-Joy.

Pep Prieto. Journalist and writer. Series critic on ‘El Món a RAC1’ and for the program ‘Àrtic’ on Betevé. Author of the essay ‘Al filo del mañana’, about time-travelling cinema, and ‘Poder absoluto’, about cinema and politics.