Last Night In Soho is a drama, mystery and horror film about an aspiring young fashion designer who uses her ability to travel back to 1960s London to not only inspire her fashion work, but to solve a dark and chilling mystery of the past. Set in my favorite city with amazing costumes, strong performances, interesting colors, and a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, writer/director Edgar Wright’s latest mixed-genre mashup proved to be quite the experience.
Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) lives with her grandmother Peggy (Rita Tushingham) in Redruth, Cornwall. When she is accepted to study at the London College of Fashion, she moves to the big city in order to follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer like her deceased mother (Amieé Cassettari).
Unfortunately her initial student lodging consisting of snobbish, rude and loud peers, forces her to find quieter and more private accommodation. When she rents a bedsit from Ms Collins (the late Diana Rigg) it looks like she’s finally found the perfect place for her to live while she studies. What she’s about to discover, however, is that there is something special about her new abode.
It’s here when things really start to get weird. For some strange reason, when Ellie goes to sleep at night, she is transported back in time to the 1960s where she observes the life of a young, aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). As it happens, Sandie used to live in the same room Ellie now resides in and her sense of fashion and style ends up influencing Ellie’s design work.
But as time goes by, what starts as a fun and inspiring experience back to the swinging sixties becomes horrible and terrifying as Sandie’s relationship with a man named Jack (Matt Smith) becomes toxic and abusive. Ellie starts to see dark entities that torment her when she returns to the present and when she witnesses a crime that took place in the past, she decides to solve the mystery surrounding the victim in the hope that she can be free of her nightmarish encounters.
Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy give standout performances as two young, ambitious women from different eras who are connected to a crime that spans across time. While they share very similar character traits that drive them to chase their dreams, the era to which they are living their lives and the different industries they are trying to get a foothold into, pose very different obstacles.
McKenzie perfectly encapsulates an innocent, inexperienced yet motivated dreamer from a small town who is thrust into the deep end of the big, bad world and must learn to swim very quickly. There is an element of mental health to her character that makes you wonder if what she is experiencing is really a special ability to travel back in time to observe a woman in the 60s or if she’s simply crazy.
Ellie does, after all, regularly see her dead mother in the reflection of mirrors and given that her mother committed suicide, it would make sense that Ellie could also be following the downward spiral of her mother. McKenzie expertly plays this character who could be either in tune with supernatural forces or simply be losing her mind.
Taylor-Joy is also superb as an equally motivated yet far more confident Sandie who aspires to be a singer. Using her beauty and style to her advantage with the men who are in a position to help her career, she quickly finds herself in a relationship with a man who can help make her dreams a reality. But as time passes, she is coerced into a different line of work and becomes a shadow of the go-getter entertainer that Ellie is introduced to when she first travels back in time. Taylor-Joy flawlessly portrays a beautiful artist who ends up finding herself living a darker life than she had originally planned.
Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) has directed and co-written (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) an engaging and surprisingly dark story that’s both visually impressive and packed with great performances. With fabulous costumes, wonderful sets/locations, an amazing soundtrack and expert use of color, Wright has masterfully recreated the look and tone of the swinging sixties while also shifting the tone from that of awe and wonder to that of dread and horror. Wright skillfully balances the question of whether or not Ellie is crazy or gifted so that it’s hard to tell what the truth is until the nice twist at the end (no spoilers).
Last Night In Soho is a captivating film with its mysterious story and its neon-drenched production values. With strong performances from its entire cast and an ending that’s anything but obvious (well for me I didn’t see it coming), Edgar Wright’s latest is a highly entertaining, highly unique mix of genres that kept me engaged right to the very end. This is an easy recommendation if you need a break from all the comic book theatrics or big-budget Hollywood blockbusters and want something with a little more substance.