Spoilers sleep with the lights on.
This has been the film I’ve been waiting for most of the year. I’ve been eagerly expecting the next feature from Edgar Wright for a while now. This one has style and substance blend together. The visual appeal seems to overshadow the story, but I feel there’s enough engaging characters and twists and turns to wrap it all up in a satisfying way. Or at least, mostly. There’s a bit of an asterisk here that I’ll try to explain. I’m still glad I chose this feature as a reason to go to a theatre in person.
Last Night in Soho (2021) is directed by Edgar Wright, who also envisioned the story and wrote it into a screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) is an aspiring student of fashion design, with a rare gift. She also has an affinity for the 60’s music and fashion. When she moves to London to pursue her dreams, she also starts dreaming about young woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who wants to become a singer during the 60’s. She meets Jack (Matt Smith) a shady young promoter who promises to make her a star.
As it comes to no surprise if you’ve watch the trailer, Ellie can somehow have a vision of traveling back to the 60’s where she sees herself in mirrors as Sandy. Anytime that the camera looks away, it switches between them both. This leads to a very imaginative dancing scene between Jack where Sandy and Ellie keep switching places. I wanted the film to continue this as an unbreakable dynamic, but on later scenes it’s left behind. Not a deal breaker, but it’s enjoyable while it lasts. Ellie takes a some time to break out of her shell, while she has to deal with clique of popular mean girls lead by former roomate Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen) but she does make an ally out of John (Michael Ajao).
Ellie herself becomes more interesting as she takes on the mission of solving the mystery behind Sandy’s tragic outcome. Unfortunately her visions eventually bring a cadre of ghostly figures, shadows of the former predatory men. I won’t be giving that away, but it’s not overly complicated. I will give the movie credit where it’s due: the actual explanation of how Ellie witnesses the past is neither important nor relevant to the story, so it’s left out. That was a good thing. On the other hand, I did expected Ellie’s initial ability to see her mother in mirrors to foreshadow some particular outcome in which her mother would intervene. It really never becomes relevant.
Plot twists aside, the visuals and the music are just top notch. The costumes are amazing and watching Sandy saunter into a room seems straight out of a 60’s film. The filmography is amazing. I am getting the soundtrack as we speak. The film is more of a dark fantasy/60’s fairy tale than a full-on horror film. However, there’s always a latent danger even when we’re seeing the initial meeting between Sandy and Jack. We know a dark path lies beneath all the glitter, specially as we meet all the creepy rich men that are constantly hanging around women half their age.
Of course McKenzie’s Ellie and the radiant presence of Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandy are both the top performances of the cast. The movie also has the dubious honor to have the last performance of Diana Rigg as Ms. Collins (memorable roles include Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones and Emma Peel in The Avengers) as well as Margaret Nolan as the sage barmaid (remembered most as Dink from Goldfinger). You care about these characters, but you don’t quite feel there’s an actual real threat except for Ellie ending up in the psych ward.
Highly recommended with reservations. For the most part, I think most audiences will love it but if you’re expecting something spooky or extreme gore, you will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you only expect glamour and glitz, there’s going to be some scares and fright. It’s going to be middle of the road on both counts with a hefty serving of 60’s music, glamour and ambience. For people expecting a cocktail of all three, it might just be the right mix. There’s some loose ends in the plot but no real deal breakers. Very much worth a watch.
That will do for now.