Directed by Edgar Wright and screenplay by Wright and Kirsty Wilson-Cairns from a story by Wright, Last Night in Soho is the story of a young woman whose love for 1960s fashion and culture travels to London to study fashion where she finds herself transported to the 1960s where she meets a young aspiring singer unaware of what is really going on. The film is suspense-drama with elements of fantasy as it plays into a young woman dealing with the truth about the times as well as trying to figure who killed this young singer back then. Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham, and in her final performance, Diana Rigg. Last Night in Soho is an eerie yet whimsical film from Edgar Wright.
The film revolves around a young woman who goes to London to study fashion as her love for the 1960s has her transported to that time where she meets an aspiring singer whom she believed would later be killed by her pimp. It is a film that explore a woman’s obsession for a period in time she had never lived in where she finds herself going back in the 1960s where she follows the life of a young aspiring singer who ends up going into a dark path that lead to her death as she wants to know who killed this young woman. The film’s screenplay by Edgar Wright and Kristy Wilson-Cairns follows the desire of its protagonist Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) who has largely been raised by her grandmother Margaret “Peggy” Turner (Rita Tushingham) following the death of her mother when Ellie was a kid. Ellie’s love for 60s fashion, music, films, and culture has her wanting to go to London where she gets accepted to the London College of Fashion. Yet, she is mocked for her taste by her snobbish roommate Jacosta (Synnove Karlsen) though she does befriend another student in John (Michael Ajao).
Ellie would then accept an open invitation to live in the house of an old woman in Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg) upon she pays rent where she takes a job at a pub where the first night she stayed at the house. She is transported to the 1960s where she meets Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who goes to a club where she catches the attention of a man named Jack (Matt Smith) who promises her the chance to be a singer at another club. Yet, things don’t go well as Ellie suspects this silver-haired old man (Terence Stamp) as Jack who keeps following Ellie claiming she looked like someone he recognized after Ellie had dyed her hair blonde. Adding to the chaos that Ellie endures is that she has strange visions that are probably connected to the fact that her mother was a schizophrenic as she starts to see things including ghosts that also includes a ghost of her mother (Aimee Cassettari). Through what Ellie sees with Sandie, it does commentate on the roles women had to play in order to reach their dreams as there is a feminist commentary about what Sandie had to endure and Ellie is dealing with as it relates to Sandie’s own plight.
Wright’s direction definitely owes a lot to films from the 1960s including the British cinema of that period where it is shot on location in London and in the Soho area as well as areas outside of London where Wright manages to showcase the Soho area of what it looked like in the 1960s and how it looked like in the 2020s. Wright’s usage of the wide and medium shots do capture a lot of detail into these locations as they are characters in the film as is the London College of Fashion as it showcases a modern world that is trying to distance itself from the past with Ellie being this anomaly who prefers the music of the past than what everyone else is into. Even as she is treated terribly by Jacosta forcing her to sleep outside of her room where there’s a party while John accidentally drank her can of Coke. Wright’s direction definitely knows when to play into the drama and some of the humor though the film opens in a light-hearted manner of Ellie dancing wearing a newspaper dress she created.
Wright’s usage of close-ups do add to the drama and suspense as the first shot of Ellie meeting Sandie in a mirror and how much they mimic each other in that sequence showcase Wright’s flair for style in the dancing where both Sandie and Ellie are dancing with Jack. It is among these images along with these fantasy scenes of Ellie trying to save Sandie whose dream to be a singer doesn’t go as planned as it is this reality that Ellie has a hard time coping. Even as things begin to blur in the third act where Ellie sees ghosts as she wonders if she is crazy or is she really seeing something that really did happen to Sandie. It all play into the roles women had to play then to get what they want in life but also the compromises they made where Ms. Collins would warn Ellie that a lot of bad things happened in London in the 1960s but people prefer not to talk about it. Overall, Wright crafts a thrilling and evocative film about a young woman who goes back to the 1960s to avenge the murder of a young woman from that period.
Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish usage of lighting to play up the Soho-London nightlife of both the 1960s and 2020s as well as emphasizing on natural lighting for some of the daytime interior/exterior scenes including at the classroom where Ellie and other students try to create their own fashion designs. Editor Paul Machliss does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of fast-cuts as well as montages to play into some of the chaos that both Ellie and Sandie would endure. Production designer Marcus Rowland, with set decorator Judy Farr and supervising art director Tim Blake, does amazing work with the look of the room that Ellie rents as well as Ms. Collins’ home as well as some of the places in the 60s including the ballrooms. Costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the homemade clothes that Ellie has created including her casual clothing to some of the stylish clothes that Sandie wears.
Hair/makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou does nice work with the look of the characters from the hairstyle that Sandie has as well as the different hairstyles that Ellie would sport as well as the look of the characters in the 60s and the Halloween party scene. Special effects supervisor Stephen Hutchinson and visual effects supervisor Gary J. Brown do terrific work with the visual effects in some of the effects as it relates to Ellie and Sandie looking at each other in the mirror as well as the design of the ghosts that Ellie sees. Sound designer Ben Meechan, with sound editors Dan Morgan and Julian Slater, does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the locations and settings as well as the effects as it play into this blur of reality and fantasy.
The film’s music by Steven Price is wonderful for its orchestral score as it feature some low-key themes as well as some bombastic string-based pieces for some of the suspense while music supervisor Kirsten Lane creates an incredible music soundtrack that features pieces by Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black, Peter & Gordon, the Who, the Kinks, the Searchers, Dusty Springfield, John Barry, the Graham Bond Organization, the Walker Brothers, R. Dean Taylor, James Ray, Barry Ryan, Rory Gallagher, and Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich as well as non-60s music pieces from Siouxsie & the Banshees and Anya Taylor-Joy singing a couple of 1960s classics.
The casting by Nina Gold and Martin Ware is remarkable as it feature some notable small roles from James and Oliver Phelps as cloakroom attendants, Michael Jibson and Lisa McGrillis as a couple of detective Ellie goes to in the third act, Beth Singh as the famed singer Cilla Black, Pauline McLynn as the bar-owner Carol that hires Ellie, Aimee Cassettari as Ellie’s mother, Elizabeth Berrington as Ellie’s professor, the trio of Jessie Mei Li, Kassius Nelson, and Rebecca Harrod as Jacosta’s friends, Sam Claflin as a punter that Sandie meets in a montage, and Margaret Nolan in her final film performance in a brief performance as a barmaid at a club that Sandie works at. Synnove Karlsen is terrific as the snobbish Jacosta who is briefly Ellie’s roommate who thinks Ellie is homely and the embodiment of uncool. Rita Tushingham is fantastic as Ellie’s grandmother Peggy as a woman who encourages Ellie to reach her dream but also remind her that there is always need for help.
Michael Ajao is excellent as John as a fashion student that Ellie befriends as he is one of the few kind people she meets as he is also concerned about Ellie’s behavior yet does believe that her claims are true. Terence Stamp is brilliant as the silver-haired man who follows Ellie in Soho after she dyed her hair blonde because she reminds him of someone where Stamp brings that ambiguity into his identity yet is someone that isn’t fond of the past. Matt Smith is amazing as Jack as a man who frequents at clubs who promises Sandie all of the things to expect only to use her for his own financial means as he has this devilish charm to him that is also menacing. In her final film performance, Diana Rigg’s role as the landlady Ms. Collins is truly an incredible finale for the famed British film/TV icon as this old woman who is fascinated by Ellie but also harbor secrets of her own as there is a charm to her but also someone who lived in the 1960s through its good times and bad times as it is really a performance that for the ages with Rigg at least going out a winner.
Finally, there’s the duo of Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie in phenomenal performance in their respective roles as Sandie and Ellie. Taylor-Joy’s performance as the aspiring singer with a sense of style in Sandie is one of charisma and energy as someone who has a lot of talent but is unable to deal with the harsh realities of the world as it lead to some dark turns. McKenzie’s performance as the fashion student in Ellie is a more reserved character who prefers the music and culture of the 1960s than today’s culture as she deals with being in the 1960s and later what happened to Sandie where McKenzie sells a lot of the sense of fear but also someone who wants to bring some kind of justice towards a world when women didn’t have a lot of choices.
Last Night in Soho is a sensational film from Edgar Wright that features great performances from Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy as well as a towering finale from Diana Rigg. Along with its ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, story of reality and fantasy in a world dominated by men, and a phenomenal music soundtrack. The film is definitely a riveting and genre-bending thriller that explores a young woman’s fascination with the past only to realize that there were also a lot of dark things that happened that would repress another young woman from reaching her dreams. In the end, Last Night in Soho is a spectacular film from Edgar Wright.
Edgar Wright Films: (A Fistful of Fingers) – Shaun of the Dead - Hot Fuzz - Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - The World's End - Baby Driver - The Sparks Brothers
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