Last Night In Soho is Edgar Wright’s most recent written and directed movie since 2017’s Baby Driver and it is very different.
Eloise, Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit”, “The Changeover”), is growing up in Redruth, Cornwall with her gran Peggy, Rita Tushingham (“Bread (TV)”, “Doctor Zhivago”), but she dreams of being a well-known fashion designer.
Her dream takes a step closer when she gets a place at the London College of Fashion. Her gran is worried, this was also Eloise’s mothers dream and it didn’t go so well for her, resulting in her suicide, though she still occasionally appears to Eloise.
Ellie finds her student digs a bit much, particularly her roommate Jocasta, Synnove Karlsen (“Medici (TV)”, “Clique (TV)”), and the rest of the girls. She doesn’t really fit in and so she rents a room with Ms Collins, Diana Rigg in her final role (“The Avengers (TV)”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), though this means she needs a job.
Enter The Toucan, a bar in Soho run by Carol, the ever excellent Pauline McLynn (“Father Ted (TV)”, “Shameless (TV)”), and oft frequented by a creepy silver-haired man, Terence Stamp (“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, “Smallville (TV)”).
The room is at the top of an old building and has a large, flashing neon BISTRO sign outside which floods the room with blue and red light intermittently. Ellie is seemingly all alone, although a fellow fashion student John, Michael Ajao (“Attack the Block”, “Cuffs (TV)”), is trying his best to get to know her.
But she’s not alone, for whenever Ellie goes to sleep she is transported to the swinging sixties where she partly lives vicariously through a woman named Sandie, Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma.”, “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (TV)”), and partly sees Sandie’s life unfold in front of her.
Sandie has her own dreams, of being a singer, the next Cilla Black, and she’s ambitious too. She falls in with Jack, Matt Smith (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”, “The Crown (TV)”), a man she’s told can make her dreams come true.
Sadly, the reality is very different and what Jack is is a pimp, pure and simple, and he begins to ‘sell’ Sandie to the grey-suited men of Soho, all the while promising her it’s what everyone does who wants to get ahead in this industry.
As the nights go on, Ellie is less and less sure about falling asleep, about seeing more of Sandie’s life. Where, at first, she idolises her, even changing her hair to be like her, now she is fearful.
Sandie is introduced to more and more men and Ellie is no longer just seeing these visions when she goes to sleep, they are now coming to her during the day, at all times, usually when it’s most inconvenient!
It all comes to a head and Ellie runs to the police but, naturally, they think she’s crazy, though one of the detectives does say she’ll look into it and let her know.
I’m going to stop there as to go any further would spoil Last Night In Soho if you haven’t already seen it. If you haven’t, I urge you to as it is stunning, though I will say my one, small, criticism is the ‘bullies’ in the story, Ellie’s fellow female fashion students, felt a bit forced.
Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”, “Penny Dreadful (TV)”) weave a tight tale but, as the viewer, you never feel like you don’t know what’s going on or who’s who, but you can see that Ellie struggles and this puts you on edge.
The directing is to die for, the dance scene with Sandie and Jack becomes one with Sandie, Jack and Ellie, Wright switching Jack’s dance partners effortlessly. He also plays with our understanding of what’s going on, as we, and Ellie, think these are visions, but after the first one she wakes to find a hickey on her neck.
But it’s when Ellie is in her bedroom, struggling to put things together and seeing more and more visions when Wright instantly flips the movie to a horror as he blends all the men Sandie has been with into one, faceless, grey-suited zombie-esq character, lurching for Ellie.
And if all that wasn’t enough for you, the ending is perfectly produced. A twist that will have you talking, questioning, the rights and wrongs of it all not as clear-cut as we like these things to be.
Last Night In Soho is a masterful piece of movie-making, mixing timelines and movie genres into one, delightful and glorious vision, one we’re happy we’ve had.
29th October 2021
THE QUICK SELL
An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be.