Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho

★★★★

Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith and the show-stealing Thomasin McKenzie star in Edgar Wright’s latest movie Last Night in Soho. This trio is backed up with a supporting cast of Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg and Michael Ajao.

Thomasin McKenzie plays Ellie who is a 60s obsessive, specifically the fashion and music of this iconic decade. She has grown up in Cornwall and there are hints that she has been through her mental battles which include visions of her dead mother. Following her dream of being a fashion designer, Ellie moves to London to study that subject. She arrives at university with a very romantic and naïve impression of London which does get tested in her first 24 hours in the capital, through a sleazy cab driver to the ‘Mean Girls’ introduction to her fellow fashion students. As a means of escape, she finds herself dreaming of London in the 60s living through a Cilla Black wannabe Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). What starts as a glamourous version of 60s London quickly veers to the dark underbelly of the city in which Sandie is exploited by Jack (Matt Smith) who although initially posing as a manager to direct her career soon enough pimps her out. The struggles and decline of Sandie are in direct parallel with Ellie’s mental state and she eventually reaches a point in which both realities mesh into one.

The arcane link between Sandie and Ellie is where the success of this film lies, how they both slide into their rabbit holes whilst enduring their combativeness was crucial. Eventually, it was Sandie’s past in London and Ellie’s future in London which troubles each of these characters and this was essential in delivering this psychological slasher. Edgar Wright cunningly reinforces this link through some fantastic direction, he seamlessly swaps the two characters during scenes as well as the use of reflections from mirrors and windows to strengthen their bond.

The performance of Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy also is one of the key reasons this works so well – they have natural chemistry without rarely interacting with each other but you perceive the emotional tie of these characters through the hauntings of Ellie. Mckenzie did a grand job capturing the torment of Ellie whilst balancing that vulnerability with the grit and self-assurance she has.

On a negative note, Wright spent some time making sure London feels very authentic, however, his work was nearly undone by Matt Smith’s cockney accent which was jarring, especially in contrast to Anya Taylor-Joy’s more subtle accent.

Michael Ajao played John who is a fellow fashion student to Ellie. He was exceptional at offering that solace to Ellie – without him, her character will have been swallowed up by her obsession with Sandie and the hauntings she was experiencing but he was top-class at providing the escape and the breath of fresh air when Ellie (and the film) needed it.

How Edgar Wright captures London in the 60s is superb, from the costume design to the soundtrack. This being a film about a fashion student, naturally, the clothes worn do carry more significance and this was executed very well. I also enjoyed that the venues in which Sandie spends her nights began very glamourous and eventually get hazier and seedier the darker her arc becomes.

It’s no surprise that an Edgar Wright film has a superb soundtrack – the jukebox of Last Night in Soho ranged from Cilla Black, Sandie Shaw to The Kinks which reinforced the 60’s vibe without falling into cliché. Dusty Springfield is also part of the soundtrack and we see her record cover numerous times during the final act. There is a bit of Dusty in the characters of Sandie and Ellie – this was surely a nod to that influence.

It’s not perfect – Last Night in Soho does seem to lose its way for a decent chunk before the final act where Ellie’s visions begin to get repetitive. There is also a long period in which the torment and confusion that Ellie experiences causes her to lash out in the real world. There is one incident, in particular, that takes place in the University library and essentially it seems to get brushed under the carpet – likewise, another involving Terence Stamp. It seems as though her actions are without consequence in the real world which doesn’t add up.

Overall, Last Night in Soho is an exciting ride with some great twists and turns along the way. Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy produce stellar performances to add to the fantastic capture of 60’s London that Edgar Wright built.

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