To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Last Night in Soho is a psychological thriller film directed by Edgar Wright, starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Diana Rigg, Rita Tushingham, and Terence Stamp. The story follows Ellie Turner, a young woman with a passion for fashion design and music who moves from her countryside home to the West End of London after being accepted into the London College of Fashion. After moving into an apartment in Soho, Ellie finds herself transported back in time to 1966 in the body of an ambitious aspiring singer named Sandie. However, the glamour is not all it appears to be and she soon finds herself in a dark and twisted murder mystery.
Last Night in Soho is one of the few films that can be considered pure cinema. The needle drops that accompany Ellie listening to music on her Beats headphones and record player, to the bands playing in the clubs when she dreams into Sandie’s body works in conjunction with Steven Price’s eerie score. This sends mixed signals to the audience so that the brain is just as surprised when things get dark. This is not your typical psychological thriller and does not follow all of the familiar beats of such a film. It contains multiple twists and arrives at an unexpected ending. Some of this has to do with the fact that Sandie’s memories can be an “unreliable narrator” so to speak. Even once you find out what really happened to her, there is still a redeeming quality to her past actions because the audience, having experienced her life through Ellie, can understand her pain and what led her down a dark path.
Edgar Wright is a phenomenal director and he never makes the same film twice. Last Night in Soho gives off a different yet familiar vibe. Mixing elements of The Sixth Sense with Somewhere in Time that blend together perfectly. He makes excellent choices to help the time travel in this film feel like a dream. Ellie only time travels when she is asleep in her room. There are times where Ellie and Sandie are perfectly in sync, making the same movements, seen in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. Other times Ellie is an observer, watching what Sandie is doing without experiencing it physically. There are also times where Ellie experiences a mix of both. As this form of time travel is new to film, Wright can make his own rules, and therefore it makes this aspect of the film more believable as the audience can’t pick apart if it’s breaking preset time travel rules.
Wright is also not shy about dropping hints, that in retrospect, tip the audience off as to what is going on. The mention of the strong smell of garlic from the restaurant next door, the many girls who had randomly, left Ellie’s apartment in the middle of the night, the old man at the bar wanting to look out for Ellie, and Ellie seeing visions of men from the 60s in the present. By the end, the things that don’t quite make sense come together.
The standouts are Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. They carried this film from beginning to end and it is phenomenal to see how these women have grown as actors. Thomasin McKenzie portrays Ellie, who has some past trauma concerning her mom’s death. It is not hidden from the audience that she can perhaps see ghosts and, more importantly, she can see her dead mom. Though it is unknown if this is mystical or psychological. When you get to the meat of the story this is really about Ellie’s state of mind. We also find out that Eli’s mom suffered from mental issues and at certain points, in the film, Eli does not know what she’s experiencing is real or if she having a mental breakdown. Considering the stories we hear about her mom and what Ellie goes through in the film, it is plausible that her mother perhaps had the same gift she had but could not handle it.
Even with this weight on her shoulders, Ellie is strong enough to want to move forward in her life and fulfill her mom’s dream of becoming a fashion designer. Ellie exudes purity and likability living up to the trope of the final girl. She comes from a somewhat sheltered life and her going to the London College of Fashion is her awakening. This is something the audience, male and female alike, can relate to as many people were once students leaving home for the first time to enjoy the college life without a parental figure telling you what to do.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie plays a small part in the film in that she only appears in the flashback/time travel sequences. The time she gets however is used to its fullest extent. Taylor-Joy dances, sings and acts as if she is the true lead of the film and in some ways she is. There’s a strength and bravado to Sandie, an aspiring singer who in the beginning knows she’s going to fulfill her dream. Her story is one that has been told numerous times by many women. They don’t see it coming and by the time they want to change their life they feel like they are in too deep and end up making terrible decisions to try and get out of that lifestyle. Both the audience and Ellie get to unravel the mystery of what happened to Sandie together and that helps make the journey more intriguing. All the information that Eli gets the audience gets at the same time.
Last Night in Soho feels like a breath of fresh air for this genre of film. It is more of a cautionary tale about things not being what they seem on the surface. Evident by the many characters in situations that are turned on their heads by the end of the film. I give Last Night in Soho an Excellent 9.5/10. It would be great to see Edgar Wright, Thomasin McKenzie, and Anya Taylor-Joy work together on a future project because when they get together it’s a wonderful combination.