Eloise/Ellie/Elle is a student at the London College of Fashion with a penchant for having visions of the past. Ellie moves out of the college’s student housing and into the upstairs room of an elderly woman’s home. There, she begins to experience 1960s London when she sleeps, and is led toward a young aspiring singer named Sandie’s rise to fame. However, as Sandie discovers the journey to fame is not the glitzy, glamorous life she had expected, Sandie’s past begins to haunt Ellie in the present day.
Last Night in Soho is Edgar Wright’s first psychological horror film, and this is evident. Though the film is populated with impressive visuals of beautiful and vibrant neon lighting and Sandie’s reflections being replaced by Ellie, Wright relies on a single technique to deliver all of his scares. Because of this, the climax of the film is not as effective since at that point, I had seen the same visual used over and over again in the previous scenes.
That being said, the beginning of the film is particularly strong, and not just because it is better than the end by default. The audience is introduced to 1960s London as Sandie and Ellie do, and the late night club scene Sandie leads us through is dazzling and sinister all at the same time. However, I will say that the plot/writing of the film relies heavily on the visuals – it sometimes feels as if Wright had inventive ideas for stunning visuals and snappy editing techniques and fit the story to the imagery he had in mind.
Though the film is so technically impressive, I question some of the writing in the film. For example, Ellie just kind of happens to be a fashion student. Yes, it is clear the film is about the dangers of romanticizing the past, however some of the logic behind the progression of the plot is questionable. It feels like Wright knew where he wanted to start and end the film, but he struggles at some points along the way.
Aside from the visuals, a lot of credit must be given to the two lead actresses for carrying the film’s momentum. Thomasin McKenzie perfectly encapsulates Ellie’s naive, shy, and thoughtful nature, and Anya Taylor-Joy carries herself with grace as usual as Ellie’s more confident foil. Though the two actresses never share any dialogue despite being in many scenes together, McKenzie expertly portrays Ellie’s despair as she witnesses Sandie’s fall into the rabbit hole of show business.
Overall, Last Night in Soho is more style over substance, but it is still a refreshing watch and the technical aspects are what make the film worth watching.