Movie: Last Night In Soho
Distributor: Focus Features & Universal Pictures
Production Companies: Film4 Productions, Focus Features, Perfect World Pictures & Working Title Films
Director: Edgar Wright
Producers: Nina Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner & Edgar Wright
Scriptwriters: Edgar Wright & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Main Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Michael Ajeo & Terrance Stamp
Release Date: 29th October 2021 (UK)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Damn. I’m still thinking about the best way to start my Last Night in Soho review. The best way is to mention how utterly brilliant this neon horror film is. Believe me, it’s everything I want out of a film: Edgar Wright, a stellar cast and beautiful visuals. So without further ado, here is my Last Night In Soho movie review.
Last Night In Soho
To start my Last Night in Soho review, the film opens with Eloise or Ellie, played by Thomasin McKenzie, dancing around her room in a homemade dress. She is very much in love with the 1960s as evidenced by the record playing. She learns from her grandma that she got into London School of Fashion and begins packing. It’s here we learn Ellie has a sort of sixth sense as she sees her dead mother in her mirror. After she arrives in London, she is put off by the city’s seedy nature and her roommate Jocasta’s disdain for her. This is due to her niche style and timid nature. Save for one student , John, everyone treats her like an outsider. This leads her to move into a 60s bedsit near Goodge Street. The elderly Mrs Collins owns the property and she has one rule: no male visitors after 8pm.
Then it happens. On her first night, Ellie is time travels back to the swinging sixties, or to be specific 1966. Here, Ellie enters the Café de Paris and gets favourable treatment by the staff. Why? Because when Ellie looks at her reflection, she sees she is Sandy. A young pretty blonde woman played by Anya Taylor-Joy. Soon after Sandy meets the Cafe’s ‘manager’ Jack, played by Matt Smith, as she asks him about becoming a singer. Sandy soon starts a relationship with Jack. Ellie finds this out first hand as when she wakes up with a love bite ‘from’ Jack. Soon after, Ellie dreams of Sandy having an audition at the Rialto Theatre where she is hired after Jack arranges everything.
Ellie decides to channel Sandy’s look by dying her hair and changing her fashion style. Following the makeover, she also gets a job at a bar called the Toucan to support herself financially. She then finds the Rialto in the present, which is now a massage parlour. Here, she is accosted by an elderly gentleman. This is because of her similarities to Sandy. Soon after, Ellie dreams of Sandy again. Yet this time she is horrified to learn she is an exotic dancer not a singer. She is even more shocked as she finds out Jack is pimping her out to his business associates.
These nightmares soon cause Ellie to hallucinate Jack and all the men who abused Sandy as spirits. Things seem to take a turn for the better when John asks Ellie to a Halloween party. However, Ellie sees the spirits and leaves but soon after she and John go back to her place.
Here, Ellie sees a vision of Jack murdering Sandy and as a result John leaves when Ms Collins bursts in. Haunted by the visions and aided by John, Ellie sets out to the library to look up Sandy’s disappearance. She even goes to the police. Yet apart from one female cop, she isn’t taken seriously. When Ellie looks around the time of Sandy’s death, she only finds missing persons reports about various men. She then sees the spirits again and nearly stabs Jocasta in a panic. This causes people to believe she is mentally ill. Ellie soon believes she has to avenge Sandy so confronts the elderly gentleman to force him to confess. This is because Ellie believes he is Jack yet as the confrontation escalates he reveals he is a ex police officer who tried to convince her to leave Jack behind.
Shocked, Ellie decides to leave London behind and gets John to drive her back to her apartment. Here, she tells him to wait 15 minutes and if she isn’t back in time he needs to go looking for her. Ellie then confronts Ms Collins who informs her about the police’s visit and the fact she is Sandy. Jack didn’t murder Sandy instead she systematically kills him and all of her abusers. Despite Ellie’s promise not to tell, Ms Collins reveals she drugged Ellie’s tea to kill her but Ellie soon tries to escape. In the process, Ms Collins stabs both her and John before she can escape to her room.
Here, the spirits reveal themselves as the ghosts of Sandie’s victims who beg Ellie to kill her so they can move on. Ellie refuses and Ms Collins enters the room where Jack’s ghost slaps her. The police are outside so Ms Collins tries to slit her own throat but Ellie prevents her as she reiterates her sympathy. However, Ms Collins, now appearing as Sandy, tells her to save herself and John from a fire blazing in the house. She does so leaving Ms Collins to burn along with the house. Sometime after, Ellie is displaying her work at a fashion show where she is socially accepted and being cheered on by her grandma and John. Just as she makes it backstage, she looks in a mirror and sees Sandy who blows her one last kiss.
To continue my Last Night in Soho Review, the easiest way to unpack the insanity is the nature of the camera. Whilst Wright has talked about how he wanted to pay homage to directors like Polanski and Roeg it feels more like a Hitchcock film. Why? The voyeuristic nature of the camera which at points made me feel uncomfortable as a montage of medium close-ups of Sandy and Jack’s associates are shown. This creates audience sympathy for Sandy and later plays into a moral debate about did the men deserve murder? I’m not going to answer that here but safe to say it feels justified by the film’s logic. Anyway, the voyeuristic nature of the camera works also in a tense scene of Sandy running from Jack in the Rialto. Here, the camera helps use the narrow hallways to create a sense of claustrophobia and genuine fear.
Another example of exemplary cinematography is the frequent mirror shots which help create a disconnect between Sandy and Ellie to establish the dream and real worlds. These also help create fear and discomfort with the audience as Ellie is often powerless to stop the horrors of the 60s attacking Sandy. The case of this being similar to a Hitchcock film is strengthened by the fact Sandy and Ellie are both blonde, a key theme within Hitchcock filmography (otherwise known as Hitchcock blondes).
Now, I would be mad to discuss an Edgar Wright film without discussing the main deal: the visuals. Depending on your feelings about Edgar Wright, he either represents the definition of style over substance. Or he’s a visual artist whose films have left an indelible legacy on cinema. Sorry not sorry for sounding like a massive Edgar Wright fan there. To tackle the visuals, we first need to consider the colour palettes used. Predominantly, Wright uses red and blue for Ellie’s room and pink and light colours for the dream world initially. Compare the first dream with the climactic scene in terms of colour. The first dream seems inviting and perfect, a literal dream world for Ellie to love and experience as evidenced by the high key light and pink palette.
However, the choice to end the scene with lower-key light and the love bite helps foreshadow the nightmares and delivers a hard hit of reality in a dream. Now, the climactic scene is bathed in red lighting, connoting danger and violence, as evidenced by the banging on the door. However, it could represent a sick form of love as the ghosts seem to love the twisted idea of Ellie giving them closure. Maybe I’ve read too much into that scene.
To finish the analysis off, the transitions between dream and reality are just the icing on the cake. Take the final confrontation where Ms Collins ‘switches forms’ to become Sandy whilst the stairs start to change to look like those in the 60s Rialto Theatre. This just links back into the visual’s analysis but also blurs the line further between reality and dream. The breakpoint between reality and dream? It’s the knife in use by Sandy/Ms Collins. The knife seems to ‘cut’ away from the dream which could be symbolic of how Sandy had her dreams ripped away from her by Jack and his callous games.
On a different note, the knife could also symbolise penetration and how Sandy is gaining a measure of revenge against those who penetrated her against her will. This links back to the idea of how women’s dreams seem to be crushed by a sexist male patriarchy which could have led them to commit violent revenge.
To sum up my Last Night in Soho review, this is a visually striking beauty with Wright once again bringing genres together wonderfully. This in turn creates both a tragic and terrifying film in equal measures. Now to finish, I’m going to use a joke I made to my mate: watching Last Night in Soho feels like Edgar Wright on acid directing a Hitchcock film.
Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding
Target Audience: 18+
Content: Strong Violence, Strong Sexual Threat