“Last Night in Soho” is a psychological thriller movie about the mysterious link between a present day fashion college student and a blond bombshell cabaret singer from the late 1960’s. It is set in London, in the Soho District. This is where art and music and clubs mingle in a delicious stew of hedonistic wonder. The art student connects with, and begins to emulate, her decades-in-the-past muse. But if the narrator is unreliable from the beginning, can you really know what is going on?
Eloise Turner (played by Thomasin McKenzie) is from a rural town in England. She yearns to make it big in fashion design, and make her Gramma Peggy (played by Rita Tushingham) proud. Eloise has lived with her grandmother, ever since her father moved out – and her mother committed suicide. But Eloise has a gift (or maybe more of a curse) in that she still sees her dead mother sometime in mirrors and other reflections. She has a way to spiritually connect.
She gets accepted into a famous Art College in London, and enrolls in Fashion Design. Her dorm roommate is loud and obnoxious. She does meet a nice fellow, another fashion student from an immigrant family from Africa. His name is John (played by Michael Ajao) and he seems to have a deep interest in being more than friends. Eloise finds a different place to live, a small flat run by a pleasant (but eccentric) older lady named Miss Collins (played by Diana Rigg).
Elosie loves the pop music from the 60’s ear, and she falls asleep to songs that transport her back into the 1960’s Swinging Soho era. She has lucid dreams that feel so real. She sees the beautiful blond who lights up the club when she enters. Her name is Sandie (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), and Eloise somehow feels totally connected to this center-of-attention woman. Sandie has grace and style, and her clothes are what Eloise wants to have as her own designs. Sandie is ready to become a knock-em-dead act. She meets a ‘manager’ named Jack (played by Matt Smith) who promises Sandie everything that she desires.
But it is all just a dream, or is it? Why does Eloise have the love bite on her neck that Jack gave to Sandie? Eloise starts to work at a small pub near the College and her flat. She notices a Silver Haired Gentleman (played by Terence Stamp) who seems to know all about Eloise, but she does not know who he is. The dreams each night become more vivid, but also much darker. Eloise sees that Jack was not telling the truth. He was setting up Sandie as a small-time backup singer, but mostly as his rented-out escort. Sandie was being used and abused in terrible ways. Eloise wants to break through this dream-state to get to Sandie — and tell her to fight back.
One night, Eloise and her buddy John are spending some time in her upstairs flat. They needed to sneak past Miss Collins, because she would not approve of Eloise entertaining men at such late house. But rather than in her dreams, the visions of her muse Sandie and her manager/pimp Jack are there to haunt her while she is awake. She thinks that she witnesses a bloody murder. But there is nobody there except John. He sees nothing, but needs to flee when Miss Collins comes around snooping.
Eloise is sure that something horrible happened in the late 1960’s. But can she explain any of this to the local police? Or can she try to investigate old newspapers herself? Eloise is at a loss, because none of the articles from papers from that time reported any unsolved murder of a young blond woman in Soho. There are many cases of the unusual disappearance of men in the old clippings, but that is not her focus.
She begins to think that the Silver Haired Gentleman whom she has seen at the bar might be able to answer her questions. She does not know that the Gentleman might not be who she assumes. This mystery surrounding Sandie is deeper than she ever could imagine. Every day, the faceless images of nameless men are haunting her, and Eloise does not know why. What started out as a wonderful dream has become her everyday waking nightmare.
“Last Night in Soho” is a puzzle box mystery in which many pieces do not seem to fit. When the solution finally comes into view, you see that the puzzle needed to be turned to the side and viewed in the present and also in the past. Edgar Wright has created a lovingly crafted postcard from a recent bygone time, with all the sights and sounds from a Hip and Swinging Era. But for all the fun soundtrack songs and for all the glowing neon – there is a darker secret that lies in the midst of the party atmosphere.
Thomasin McKenzie (as Eloise) and Anya Taylor-Joy (as Sandie) are fantastic in the movie as two sides of the same coin. The scenes are done so well, that each one can be interchangeable when Sandie is making her mark in the club. Terence Stamp does a great job, as does Diana Rigg. This was (sadly) her final movie performance. Matt Smith makes his mark as a guy who might not trusted…
“Last Night in Soho” makes for a fun stroll down Memory Lane, until you realize you are running from demons down Nightmare Alley.
Last Night in Soho
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Screenplay by: Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Story by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Terence Stamp
Cinematography: Chung-hoon Chung
Edited by: Paul Machliss
Music by: Steven Price
Distributed by: Focus Features
Release date: October 29, 2021
Length: 116 minutes
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material and brief graphic nudity