Synopsis: 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.
Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, Synnøve Karlsen, Rita Tushingham
Director: Edgar Wright
Running Length: 117 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8.5/10)
Review: Time flies when you’re coming out of lockdown. It seems like only yesterday I saw the first trailer for this mystery within a horror film directed by Edgar Wright (The World’s End) and couldn’t wait for its release date to arrive and now it’s finally here. OK, so it was only May but that was five months ago, and a lot has happened since then. It’s a rare pleasure when a movie is as good as it is advertised to be and it’s a true unicorn when the resulting film is just a tad bit better, and I think Last Night in Soho may inch out it’s well edited preview by a few blonde hairs. While it’s going to divide a great number of people that want the third act to be as elusive as the first two, this is a movie that ultimately has the general consumer at heart rather than the niche crowd…and what’s wrong with that?
I tend to get a kick out of people that wish they lived in another decade. Really? As a (insert anything other than straight while male) you wanted to live in a different time when you had even less rights and freedom to be who you were? Well sure, the clothes may have been wilder, and the music was better but still…you might be sacrificing liberation for the overall visualization of the time and that wouldn’t be the best. Yet I must admit the opening of Last Night in Soho, featuring Thomasin McKenzie’s ‘60s obsessed Eloise flouncing around her time capsule-like bedroom in a dress of her own creation is a bouncy way to start what ends on a much different note. Living with her gran (Rita Tushingham) after mum passed away, Eloise has a passion for fashion and just wants to study at a top London fashion school.
Receiving her acceptance letter at the top of the film, this country mouse heads to the big city with many of the same dreams her mother had and, as we can tell, suppressing similar mental health issues that caused her to return home without achieving them. Eloise will be different though, and when her original living situation with an impossible roommate Jacosta (Synnøve Karlsen) doesn’t work out, she seeks out a bedsit on the third floor of an assuming row house owned by Mrs. Collins (the late, great Dame Diana Rigg, Breathe).
She’s barely settled and sleeping on her first night that something odd happens. Always a bit of a dreamer, Elosie has a whooper. She fantasizes she’s a new girl in town, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, Radioactive), during the swinging ‘60s who wants to make it as a singer and hopes she can do it on talent alone. Meeting the enigmatic Jack (Matt Smith, Terminator Genisys) at a luxe club who thinks she’s the tops, he sweeps her off her feet and the world is hers for the taking. It’s a beautiful dream world Eloise has created…so how did the “love bite” Jack gave Sandie wind up on her neck the next morning? As the lines between the reality of Eloise and the fantasy of Sandie start to blur, the dreams of the night seep into her day. Night after night, Eloise appears to travel back in time and doesn’t exactly live as Sandie but peers over her shoulder into her world…a world that first turns dark, then violent, then deadly.
Written by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917), the film is a filled with twists and turns, not to mention some brilliant camera work and effects that have McKenzie and Taylor-Joy switching places multiple times during scenes. One moment it’s Eloise dancing with Jack, the next it’s Sandie. It’s disorienting and very much meant to be – yet it’s always easy to track what direction the movie is heading, just thankfully not where it will end up. After seeing the film I’ve read the finale hasn’t sat well with people and I suppose I can see why. It’s far more in line with traditional suspense tropes and less of the dreamy quality employed so well in the first 90 minutes, but I wasn’t complaining at all. It’s still vehemently performed by the cast – that’s undeniable.
Playing like Wright had an Argento filter on his camera, the production design is awash with Argento’s favorite bold color palettes and the Italian’s maestro’s penchant for gore that comes out of nowhere. The film is restrained up unto a point but eventually let’s its bloody banner wave, but it has purpose. Smith and Taylor-Joy both look like they stepped out of a time machine for their roles, even if Taylor-Joy is getting dramatically overrated (please witness her 5-minute-long YouTube version of Petula Clark’s Downtown…or maybe you shouldn’t, she sings it in the movie and takes half that amount of time). McKenzie (True History of the Kelly Gang) has the heavy lifting to do, and she has muscles of steel by the end. It’s a nervy performance that works well in harmony with the other performers that are so still and solid. Acting stalwarts Terence Stamp (Big Eyes) and Tushingham (The Owners) are divine in their limited screen time and what a wonderful showcase for Rigg in her final screen appearance, looking radiant.
An ambitiously rich production that boasts eye-popping visuals and an array of period music to create a dazzling soundtrack, Last Night in Soho gooses the audience with increasing energy as it goes along. The scares are nicely timed and lingering, benefitting from delivery that has polish and an awareness of what type of movie everyone set out to make. Arriving in time for Halloween, it’s a top-notch selection for those looking for creativity and art that jumps out at them, along with an imaginative story that dips and swerves to keep you guessing.