Last Night in Soho (Review): The ’60s Were Cooler, Not Better

Edgar Wright’s latest film ridicules anyone who claims they were born in “the wrong generation”. Read for my review of Last Night in Soho.

Eloise Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) is a promising young fashion designer who’s been accepted to a school in London. She was raised by her grandmother, from whom she developed an affinity for 1960s music, fashion and culture. Eloise quickly fails to relate with her contemporaries in London. So she leaves her residence to lodge in an older dwelling, run by an elderly woman named Ms. Collins (Dame Diana Rigg).

Eloise’s first sleep in these accommodations causes her dream about the 1960s. In her dream, she’s an ambitious young woman named Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) looking to sing at a famous London nightclub. Eloise quickly connects with Sandy’s adventures on an emotional level. Every night Eloise goes to sleep, she sees Sandy’s life unfold one mishap at a time. But Eloise soon realizes Sandy may have been a real person and grows determined to discover Sandy’s ultimate fate.

First off: Last Night in Soho‘s content shocked me more than expected. I hadn’t accounted for outright horror elements in this story! My surprise was made all the worse by LNIS’ relatively normal beginning. I’d let my guard down by the time it had built into something genuinely disturbing.

Maybe this sounds like a bad thing? I dunno. But I thought it was awesome! Why shouldn’t movies be able to change your expectations on the fly? Maybe it helped that I had no idea what Last Night in Soho would be like, but I admire the gradual shift in tone.

This imagery stuck with me

Last Night in Soho‘s first act goes out of its way to make you believe (as Eloise does) that 1960s London is idyllic and modern times sucks. The modern college kids are snarky, have terrible taste in music, and are all-around unpleasant; London is busy but drab; and strangers are creepy weirdos. Meanwhile: the 1960s characters are sexy and charming; London is vibrant; and strangers are creepy weirdos (except when they’re handsome young men like Jack– Matt Smith).

We realize pretty quickly that the 1960s surface-level appeal hides a sickening rot beneath it. Sandy’s promising dreams turn to nightmares, as she descends deeper into darkness (I’m purposefully being vague for your sake). Hers is the story of many young girls who seek fame and success in a cruel industry/ city.

Eloise might not face Sandy’s exact circumstances, but Last Night in Soho makes clear that our modern world is barely improved from the practices of decades-past. Sandy’s fate might easily parallel that of Eloise with just the right amount of bad luck.

See Thomasin McKenzie in the mirror back there?

Last Night in Soho captures the paranoia many women face in unfamiliar environments. In a city where you have no support system and nobody knows who you are, it would be easy for terrible things to happen (and they sometimes do). Eloise spends most of the film in fear of her own safety. Some of this fear is taken literally for the situation at hand, and some of it metaphorically represents the horrors she might face.

Perhaps this is why Eloise relates so strongly to Sandy. Eloise wants Sandy’s confidence, talent, and (apparent) luck. Even when Sandy’s life takes a turn for the worse, Eloise sympathizes and tries to help– not that there’s much she can do (or is there?).

Last Night in Soho effectively puts its audience into Eloise’s mind. We experience her joys, fears and terror as she does. And we, like her, learn to just go with everything that’s happening– weird as it may be. As Eloise’s mental state becomes more desperate, so too do we feel her desperation. The psychological elements of LNIS were well handled!

I also enjoyed the mystery aspect of Last Night in Soho. The plot is quite twisty! You’re sure to formulate theories as it goes, but the story probably won’t play out how you think. I thought I had things figured out, only for the film to acknowledge my theories and toss them out the window. But sometimes it lied to me and I was correct, yet also not? Suffice it to say I failed to see certain things coming…

Chung-hoon Chung created some gorgeous visuals for this film! The colour palette is particularly striking– especially when the 1960s vibrancy begins to blend with the modern setting towards the end. Any scene where scary things are happening felt disconcerting, in large part due to the film’s lighting and colours.

Pretty lighting!

I don’t usually have anything bad to say about actors… and I still don’t. Everyone was perfectly good in the film. Thomasin McKenzie was the stand-out of the lot though. Usually main characters aren’t so soft-spoken and shy for an entire movie, but McKenzie makes the character work by injecting Eloise with a soulful depth. More happens in her mind than in her actions.

Terence Stamp wasn’t in the movie much, but he offered a good deal of intrigue with what little he had to do. And Michael Ajao made a good impression as John (I’ve never seen him in anything before). Of course Anya Taylor-Joy was magnificent too. She’s an excellent talent!

And one last positive: Last Night in Soho had a fantastic soundtrack. I see no need to elaborate further. Just take my word for it…

Onto my criticisms now: though the film contained many scary sequences, the novelty of those moments eventually wore off. Edgar Wright had me invested for most of the story but the drama dragged a bit too long in the third act. I went from being frightened to thinking, “OK: this is starting to feel like a cliché horror flick now.”

To take those feelings further– Last Night in Soho‘s ending didn’t resonate with me the way I wanted it to. It doesn’t exactly fall apart but a few compelling plot twists couldn’t save the movie from its worn-out welcome in my mind. The plot got stuck somewhere in the second act and didn’t add enough new elements to keep the story moving.

Also, don’t try to figure out what’s happening in the movie. Last Night in Soho doesn’t hold your hand and doesn’t care to tell you why things unravel in this way. I wasn’t bothered by that personally, but some people might be.

What did bug me was the plot point about Eloise’s mother going basically nowhere… It provided some intriguing context for Eloise’s character but felt like needless exposition. Anything they said happened to the mother could have happened to the Grandmother character instead. At least the Grandmother played an active role for some of the story.

Last Night in Soho left me disturbed on my drive home from the theatre. There’s a good chance it might fuel my nightmares in the coming weeks. I guess it’ll be a bad sign if my next dream starts in the 1960s…

Though some parts drag and the ending didn’t fully satisfy, Last Night in Soho‘s overall execution and intriguing concept make the film Worth a Watch.

Got any Edgar Wright movie recommendations for me? What did you think of Last Night in Soho? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

REVIEW METRIC: Don’t bother; If you’re bored; Worth a watch; Pretty darn good; Must see; Watch it A.S.A.P.

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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