Last Night in Soho
last night in soho | edgar wright | krysty wilson-cairns | thomasin mckenzie | anya taylor-joy | matt smith | neo-giallo | ghost | ghosts | haunted | haunted house | drama | mystery | thriller | united kingdom | terence stamp | diana rigg | michael ajao | synnove karlsen
Film: Last Night in Soho
Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith
This was a film that was on my list of most anticipated for 2021. It was another that was caught in the pandemic pushback, but it happened to so many, I had given up a bit in worrying. I just knew that Edgar Wright, who I enjoy as a writer/director, was doing a movie that might have giallo vibes and I was in. This is one that Jaime was even interested in seeing. We got the chance with an advanced screening. I’ve now given it a second watch for Where to Begin with Time Travel Horror.
Synopsis: an aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she meets a dazzling wannabe singer. But glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.
We start this movie off getting to meet our lead, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie). She is a bit of a free spirit with a love for the 1960s. We get to see that from the posters on her wall to the music that she listens to. She lives with her grandmother, Peggy (Rita Tushingham). Eloise gets spooked when she sees a woman in the mirror, Aimee Cassettari. This turns out to be her mother who passed away. Peggy asks if she’s seen her lately and her granddaughter lies about not. She gets important news that day that she’s been accepted to a university for fashion in London. Her grandmother warns her to be careful as the city can be too much. They also celebrate.
Eloise gets a taste of this firsthand when a taxi driver hits on her. She hides out in a store until he leaves and she’s asked by John (Michale Ajao) if she needs help. She declines, thinking he is like the driver. When she arrives at her dorm where she meets her roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen). We get the idea early on that she is rude and makes fun of Eloise behind her back every chance she gets. A bit of this is insecurity. The two roommates and the rest of girls go out that night. It ends with Eloise seeing an odd silver-haired gentleman, Terence Stamp, and oversleeping on the couch.
The bullying gets to be a bit much and she finds a slip of paper about an open room nearby. It belongs to Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). The two of them meet and the older woman takes a liking to Eloise. She moves in at once. That night she has a vivid dream of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). She seems new to the area and has dreams of becoming a singer. Eloise experiences London and the era she loves through Sandie’s shoes. This leads her to meet Jack (Matt Smith), a manager for women in the area.
At first, Eloise is on cloud nine. She can’t wait to experience more of Sandie’s life. This also gives her inspiration for her work at school. She hits it off with John, who is also a student who also has dreams of being a designer. It becomes a nightmare though. Sandie’s life wasn’t what Eloise thought and she becomes haunted by the same demons that Sandie had all those years ago. She sets out to figure out what happened to this beautiful young woman and make it right.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction of the characters. Part of that is I don’t want to go into spoilers as this is a movie that needs to be experienced. Since seeing this, I’ve now seen the trailer. I’ve given a coherent set up for the first act and somewhat of what you can expect. I don’t want to show my cards too early, but I enjoyed this movie a lot. I was nervous with Jaime about the almost two-hour runtime. It was a non-factor though. This movie hooked us both in and flew by.
With that out of the way, where I want to start is the major sub-genres we are dealing with. I’d say that this is a neo-giallo while also adding in haunted house/ghosts. The supernatural elements are managed very well. Our lead of Eloise is set up in the beginning that she has psychic abilities. She sees her deceased mother and that comforts her. She doesn’t tell her grandmother though as she doesn’t want her to worry about her anymore. These two women were important in her life and both loved the 1960s. It seems her mother tried to live the dream that Eloise has, but it was too much. The grandmother also spent time in London with her daughter. This has shaped our lead into who she is and I loved that. It brings good heart.
This gift though causes Ellie issues. She dreams of Sandie, which at first is great. The darker the plight of this young woman becomes, the more troubled it makes Eloise. We get the idea that her gift allows her to have vivid dreams. The deeper she gets, the stronger the manifestations. Ellie sees Sandie and the different men she met even outside of the room she is renting. The more we get into the story, the more she connects dots on to what happened.
Moving away from the haunted house/ghost parts let me take this to the giallo elements. We are getting the lighting here, which is amazing. Part of this is the neon of 1960s London. There is also a sign outside of Ellie’s window. This makes for some good effects in that room. The movie introduces a bit of sleaze that she uncovers during her investigation. At first, she knows she can’t go to the police as they won’t help her. She decides to find out the truth herself. These are all elements of this sub-genre. Plus, there are deaths with a knife that fits as well.
Before I fully move away from the story, I want to go to social commentary. The first part would be the idea of the supernatural vs. mental illness. No one else can see Ellie’s mother. Peggy believes what her granddaughter says. It is revealed that her mother had a history of depression amongst other mental ailments. As Ellie descends into madness, the logical explanation is that she is losing it. I thought that fit well for what was needed. We also get a scene where it is questioned if she could have been drugged or not, which is socially relevant. Going along with that, we see the dark side of show business with Sandie. I feel horrible for what happens to her. How the movie oversees it is interesting and blurs the line of good vs. bad. We also get to see the effects of bullying with Ellie classmates.
That should be enough for the story so I’ll take this to the acting. McKenzie is great as our lead here. I love seeing her in the beginning and how her dreams are shattered almost at once when the big city gets its claws into her. As someone who has moved like she has to a place that is unfamiliar, it felt real. She goes through worse as well. Taylor-Joy was amazing. Seeing what she goes through is heartbreaking. Trying to figure out her fate had me glued to the screen. She is one of my favorite modern actors for sure. She also brings an elegance that fit the era. I also thought that Rigg was solid in her role. The same goes for Ajao, who was good as a character that is there for Ellie when she needed it since there are so many against her in her life. I want to give credit to Stamp, Smith and the rest of the cast for rounding this out for what was needed as well. I did want to include here is that Wright is great at selecting good actors who play complicated characters. It questions your morals and who you should side with when it comes to the past.
All that is left is filmmaking. Coming in and seeing that Wright was behind this, I knew how this looked was going to be on point. It most definitely was. I love how it feels like Ellie goes into the past. This is shot beautifully and I think the giallo elements help. The effects were also solid. We don’t get a lot, but it doesn’t need them. What is impressive are the shots with mirrors that we get where we see Sandie and Eloise interchanging. It was impressive. The blood we get looks good. We also got surreal things as well that I enjoyed. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed with the era.
In conclusion, this movie blew me away. I tried to temper my expectations and this exceeded them. The concept is an interesting one. I like incorporating in a neo-giallo with the haunting aspects of the movie. There is an interesting message here that deepens the story. The acting was good across the board. How this looks was great. The effects helped there and the soundtrack suited what was needed. I gave this my highest rating the first time without a second watch. My rating stayed the same, but that isn’t a slight by any stretch.
My Rating: 9 out of 10