Last Night in Soho is one of those films I swore I was going to see when it opened in theaters. Unfortunately, I didn’t act quickly enough; the film didn’t have a very long theatrical run due to its disappointing performance at the box office. It grossed $23 million worldwide, which was considerably lower than its budget of $43.
Despite all that, Edgar Wright‘s Last Night in Soho was generally loved by critics, and was even nominated for multiple awards, including best costumes, musical score, visual effects and acting. I was finally able to experience the film for myself when it began streaming on HBO Max.
The storyline is deceptively simple. A young, timid woman named Ellie who lives with her grandmother in the country is thrilled to have been accepted at a fashion design college in London. Ellie is obsessed with the fashion and music of the 1960s, and has highly romanticized the busy city.
During a conversation with her Grandmother, we learn that Ellie’s mother killed herself when Ellie was very young, and her daughter sometimes sees a vision of Mum in her mirror. This is a smart plot point, because it makes it more plausible that the early onset of paranormal events don’t completely freak poor Ellie out immediately.
Ellie is a meek, insecure young woman, and she just doesn’t fit in with her college classmates, particularly her snotty, attention seeking room mate Jocasta. But, sweet and sincere John really likes Ellie, and is the only one who is truly kind to her.
It quickly becomes clear that Ellie won’t be able to function in the dorm, so she rents a bedsit owned by the elderly Miss Collins. It’s a small, quaint room, but its décor pretty much matches Ellie’s aesthetic, and she happily moves in. The first night in her new digs, Ellie has a vividly realistic dream and is transported to the 1960s, observing a young woman named Sandie. This vivacious woman can sing, dance, and capture the attention of handsome Jack, who offers to become her manager.
In Last Night in Soho, opposites attract
Sandie is beautiful, blonde, vivacious and supremely self-confident…in other words, everything Ellie longs to be. And Ellie is completely captivated by her nightly dreams, and by Sandie herself. She starts dressing in mod-style clothing, colors and styles her hair like Sandie, and designs a dress inspired by the magical, flowy coral-colored dress she first sees her wearing.
But then things take a bad turn, and Last Night in Soho heads towards horror territory. It seems that Jack’s intentions towards Sandie are not to help her become a star; instead, he begins to pimp her out.
For the “it’s too slow” crowd, I encourage you to stick it out; although Last Night in Soho starts out slowly, Ellie’s dreams ramp up pretty quickly, and even start to spill over into her waking hours. Luckily, John wants to help her, and believes her when she tells him what is going on.
I am 100% anti-spoiler in my reviews, so I won’t say much more about the horror Sandie and Ellie go through, but it’s pretty intense, and that intensity is rendered beautifully through the photography and direction. Also, the film has a nice, solid twist towards the end.
The lead actresses in Last Night in Soho both deliver Oscar-worthy performances. Going into it, I expected Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) to be the show stealer as Sandie, but Thomasin McKenzie matches her level of talent as Ellie. Both of these actresses completely commit themselves to the characters they portray, and I enjoyed every second of their time on camera.
The colorful lighting is gorgeous, the music is fab, and though the film is a little long at nearly two hours, I still really enjoyed it.
Are you a fan of Edgar Wright’s work? Where do you think Last Night in Soho ranks in his list of films? Let us know in the comment section.