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 went on my list of most anticipated for the year. It was another that was caught in the pandemic pushback, but it was happening 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. The synopsis here is 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.
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 is listening to. She lives with her grandmother. Eloise gets spooked when she sees a woman in the mirror, Aimee Cassettari. This turns out to be her mother who passed away. Her grandmother 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 for some people.
Eloise gets a taste of this first hand 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 room 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. 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 immediately. 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 seems to be experiencing life in her 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 and also 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 did 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 for this movie. 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 so what I’ve done is just give 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 handled very well. Our lead of Eloise is established in the beginning that she has some 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 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 is, 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.
This gift though causes Eloise 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 is allowing her to have vivid dreams. The deeper she gets though; she sees manifestations of the men that Sandie encountered even outside of the room she is renting. The more we get into the story; she starts to connect dots on to what is happening here.
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 Eloise’s window. This makes for some good effects in that room. The movie introduces a bit of sleaze that Eloise 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 some deaths with a knife that fits as well.
Before I fully move away from the story, I want to go to some social commentary. The first part would be the idea of the supernatural vs. mental illness. No one else can see Eloise’s mother. Her grandmother believes what she can see. It is revealed that her mother had a history of depression amongst other mental ailments. As Eloise descends into madness, the logical explanation is that she is losing it. I thought that fit well for what the movie 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 handles it is interesting and blurs the line of good vs. bad. We also get to see the effects of bullying with Eloise’s 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 immediately 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 much worse as well. Taylor-Joy was speculator. Seeing what she goes through is heartbreaking. Try to figure out her fate had me glued to the screen. She is one of my favorite modern actresses for sure. She also brings an elegance that fit the era. I also thought that Rigg was solid in her role. The same for Ajao, who was good as a character that is there for Eloise 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.
Then the last things to go into would be the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. 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 Eloise 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 were we see Sandie and Eloise interchanging. It was impressive. The blood we get looks good. We also get some surreal things as well that I enjoyed. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed with the era.
So then in conclusion here, this movie blew me away. I tried to tamper my expectations and this movie 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 fit for what was needed. I’m going to give this movie the highest rating that I can without a second viewing. This is a must see in my opinion, especially if what I said fits what you like.
My Rating: 9 out of 10