Edgar Wright’s latest film, Last Night in Soho, is yet another pandemic delay that will finally be released later this year (in October, to be exact). The first trailer dropped yesterday, and yes, I am very into it. Soho is Wright’s take on the horror genre—people are already rushing to call it “psychological horror”, which means an artsy dude made a scary movie—and it stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final role. Shadow and Bone breakout Jessie Mei Li also co-stars as do James and Oliver Phelps, best known as Fred and George Weasley. As always, Wright attracts a top-tier cast. Also as always, his latest movie looks kinetic and interesting, the mix of modern and retro perfectly suited to his exacting and detail-packed visuals. I’m getting a Neon Demon vibe, WHICH I LOVE, but I highly doubt this movie ends in necrophilia. Edgar Wright and Nicolas Winding Refn express VERY different worldviews in their art, after all, but I would be stoked if there is a cinematic dialogue happening there, and not just a shared aesthetic of young women in fashion.
Speaking of young women, Wright has been one of my favorite filmmakers, but over the years, I’ve had an increasingly complicated relationship with his work. There’s an issue in his films that once noticed, I could not ignore, and took the shine off his filmography for me. That is: he doesn’t write for women. I’m not even going to say he doesn’t write women well, because that suggests effort and failure. Christopher Nolan doesn’t write women well, but he tries, creating central female characters he then cannot make feel or sound like actual human beings going through human experiences. Wright, on the other hand, doesn’t write for women because he has not, historically, been invested in the women in his films—he’s not trying. Wright’s women are mothers, girlfriends, victims who die to amp up the hero (or villain, in Baby Driver’s case), or trophies the good guy wins in the end. The closest we get to a well-rounded woman in an Edgar Wright film is Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World who is 1) based on another writer’s original work, and 2) the ultimate trophy for the ultimate Nice Guy, Scott Pilgrim. Over the years I have felt that while I love Edgar Wright films, they don’t especially love me.
Maybe that’s changing, though? Soho conspicuously centers on two women, played by McKenzie and Taylor-Joy. Sure, Matt Smith is there, too, but this looks like a film about whatever timey-wimey nonsense is happening to these two women, and the men appear incidental to it. Smith is billed high enough that he undoubtedly plays a major part in whatever is going on, but Thomasin McKenzie looks like the protagonist of the piece. Could it be, is Edgar Wright finally going to write women? I hope so! There’s no reason to believe he can’t do it, he simply hasn’t up till now. As a fan of his work, as a fan of The Neon Demon who sincerely believes more movies should be influenced by that one, as a fan of McKenzie and Taylor-Joy who hopes they get great roles to chew on, I am rooting for Last Night in Soho. And if it turns out that Wright can’t write women well, at least he will have finally tried.