Edgar Wright is one of the most exciting directors in film today. Whenever a movie that he is attached to comes out, it is an event. He has such style, loves to blend-genres, and becomes more confident with each new film that he makes. Last Night in Soho is no exception; it’s his most assured and confident work to date and I would make the case that it is his best film.
Last Night in Soho follows aspiring fashion student Elouise “Ellie” Turner, who loves everything and anything to do with London in the 1960s. I even think the name Elouise is perfect, as it is a name that evokes the past. Ellie has her demons as she has visions of her mother, who killed herself when Ellie was young. She ends up moving to London for school and has problems fitting in with her classmates, especially her roommate Jocasta. Fed up, she leaves her residence and rents a place owned by an elderly lady. Instantly things start turning around for the better for Ellie. At night, she goes to sleep and has visions of the 1960s, where she follows an aspiring singer named Sandie as she goes to the Café de Paris to make a name for herself. All the sequences at the Café de Paris are technical marvels in my opinion, I’ll talk more about those in a bit.
When Ellie wakes up, she is inspired to draw fashions of what she has seen and even has physical marks on her body at times from her visions. As Queen once sang, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” The line is blurred as Ellie changes her hair style, hair colour, and even her clothes to be more like Sandie. Unfortunately for Ellie, the more often she has visions of Sandie, Ellie’s image she has of life back then is shaken, as she ultimately sees Sandie being murdered. Determined to avenge Sandie, Ellie goes on a quest to track down the killer and seek justice for her friend from another time. I won’t go into any more details about the plot of the film, but here are my thoughts on Last Night in Soho.
Edgar Wright had a very distinct vision of what this film would look like and I love seeing his imagination come to life on the screen. From modern day London being dull and dreary, to the bright lights and upbeat sounds of the Swinging Sixties, I feel that he put everything he had into this film. I love the transitions, especially the first one of Ellie going to the Café de Paris and the use of the colour red, which is quite prominent. I talked earlier about the Café de Paris scenes and they are absolutely impressive. Seeing Ellie and Sandie arrive at the establishment and look at each other in the mirror, copying each other’s movements seamlessly, as well as watching Sandie walk down the stairs of the club and having Ellie as her reflection in the mirrors that border the stairs all had me in awe. I cannot wait to watch how they filmed these sequences when the digital extras become available. When Sandie is dancing at the club, there is a sequence where the camera does not make a cut but it alternates between Sandie and Ellie dancing with a partner. It is done so seamlessly and is so well executed, I could not help but nod my head in approval.
The acting in Last Night in Soho is very strong, led by Thomasin Mckenzie, who has no problem carrying the film. Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg (in her final performance) are excellent, but the true standout is Terence Stamp. He is not in the film a lot, but when he is, it is electric. He makes you uncomfortable from a simple look or how he delivers a line of dialogue. You do not know what his intentions are and he has such presence when he is on the screen, that you will be entranced by his performance. I know I was.
No one who sees Last Night in Soho will leave without thinking how great the soundtrack was. Wright picks such fantastic upbeat music that you will want to listen to the songs on repeat as soon as you leave the theatre. Hearing songs such as “Downtown”, “Got My Mind Set On You”, “Land of 1000 Dances” and “Wishin’ and Hopin’” just put you in such a wonderful headspace and perfectly encapsulate that era.
Edgar Wright likes to blend genres in his films and Last Night in Soho is no exception. It is partly a coming-of-age story, but it then turns into a murder mystery/psychological horror film. It succeeds for the most part in making this styles work, although admittedly I found the last twenty minutes not to be on the same level as the rest of the film.
I came away from watching Last Night in Soho thinking about the dangers of romanticizing the past. Nothing is as idyllic as it once was. I’m sure we have all dreamt or thought about what it would be like to live in a different time, a different city or even a different country. When we have those thoughts, they are filled with such hope and positivity that there is no way they can be as perfect as we envision. There is always a sadness or a darkness to someone’s story and it is important to remember that as much as we may romanticize what the Swinging Sixties may have been like, it took its toll on many people as well, much like Sandie.
I’m so happy that Edgar Wright and co-screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns wrote a story about Elouise Turner and her adventures in London. If anything, I wanted Last Night in Soho to be longer, but I guess if I did that, I would be romanticizing the past and would not have learned my lesson that things are not always what they seem.