Last Night in Soho (2021) Review!!

Synopsis – 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 and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.

My Take – With films like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Baby Driver (2017) and the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End), in his kitty, writer-director Edgar Wright continues to be without a doubt one of the most popular filmmakers of our generation. Known for his distinctive style which includes zippy editing, meticulous plotting, deadpan comedy and a persistent use of popular music, director Wright‘s film are not just fun and approachable, but also include greater goals which are tended and executed quite expertly.

However, for his seventh directorial feature, director Wright, teaming up with writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Penny Dreadful, 1917), surprisingly opts for delving into psychological horror territory, weaving a story that playfully bounces between genres serving up time travel, surreal dreams, ghosts, a murder mystery, a neon-drenched touch of romance, and a memorable soundtrack. Employing his familiar tools but towards a fresh set of goals.

Resulting in a deliciously entertaining romp that shows the director’s evident love of 1960s culture that shines through in every frame, as director Wright successfully tones down his signature sense of humor and fun to make space for tension and dread. Nearly every shot is awash with neon blues and deep reds, making the film a colorful fantasy that knowingly cuts from the nostalgic cloth of classic horror.

But while the film seamlessly blends 1960s nostalgia and outright horror, it also sadly fumbles in the final act with a last minute twist that makes the solution feel cheap rather than the intended thrilling, hereby affecting the overall experience.

Nevertheless, with the film showing off director Wright’s usual flair as a visual stylist and for propelling us on a largely enjoyable, campy and genuinely scary path it definitely deserves to be celebrated on the big screen.

The story follows Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), a young aspiring fashion designer, obsessed with all things 1960s, who arrives from rural Cornwall to attend the London College of Fashion to fulfill her dreams. Though she initially moves into the student housing, she leaves immediately when her eccentric, old-fashioned ways makes her the target for others and takes up lodgings in a dingy room just north of Soho, at the top of a creaky house run by mysterious landlady Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg).

Unexpectedly, upon dozing off Ellie starts traveling back in time to the 1960s where she sometimes observes and sometimes inhabits Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a glamorous, groovy and ambitious young nightclub singer, very vividly getting enchanted with her personality, her guts and joy of life.

But the deeper she goes in these explorations, the more dangerous and creepy the real story of Sandie becomes, as she’s drawn into the infamous Soho underworld of leering gentlemen, including her manager Jack (Matt Smith), Ellie’s dreams transform into waking nightmares, pulling her beneath London’s modern surface into the sordid past.

Like the poster and trailers teased the film delivers on being a stylish take on the horror genre. With a fun set-up and a compelling soundtrack, director Wright puts on a dazzling visual display when he brings Eloise, and us, into his world. By day, memories of Sandie begin to influence Ellie’s work while by night, Eloise dances her way through Sandie’s experiences, as a combination of seamless digital tricks and bold choreography results in fascinating long-take sequences, where Jack switches between swinging around ballrooms with Ellie and Sandie, as if the two actresses were occupying the same space.

He leads a wonderful charge into two different time periods of London and make them look so dang fun and stylish to live in.

There is energy from two different periods cascading into one story, pulling you into the story of this little play, working you into the life of our main character Ellie. Setting wise, it’s an engaging piece that is realistic, dynamic, and engaging to the tale, with almost every place used well into the story. Before long, Eloise’s visions begin to reflect her fears of encroaching male impositions. As a young girl in a crowded new city, she has to put up with more harassment than she’s used to, and as Sandie’s parallel story becomes a charged version of her own.

But while director Wright handles the subsequent descent into horror with stylish aplomb, pulling off some inspired montage sequences and referencing, the plot twist in the final act, which feels like information the protagonist ought to have had already, over-simplifies the plot and muddles the themes badly. Also though the expected pivot from thriller to straight-up horror is deftly handled, the film forgets to address how and why Ellie sees her dead mother in mirrors, inadvertently serving to trivialize her mental trauma.

Thankfully, it is Wright‘s energetic direction that gives the film a real sense of propulsion, sweeping Ellie up in her swooning fantasies before suddenly pulling the rug from under her and drawing effective parallels with some classic ’60s horror films.

Performance wise, Thomasin McKenzie makes for a wonderful lead, innocent and naïve, but holding much beneath the meek mannered persona she starts out with. Following her acclaimed lead turn in the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor-Joy secures her newfound star status with a perfect combination of confidence, sex appeal, and artistic presentation. Matt Smith adds and executes the dramatic flair well.

Terence Stamp is delightfully sinister, while Diana Rigg is in her final role elevates a lot of the scenes. In other roles, Michael Ajao, Rita Tushingham, Synnøve Karlsen and Jessie Mei Li are also good. On the whole, ‘Last Night in Soho’ is an enjoyable psychological horror that is stylish and superbly acted.

Directed –

Starring – Jessie Mei Li, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith

Rated – R

Run Time – 116 minutes

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