“Last Night in Soho”

The film “Last Night in Soho” centers on protagonist, Eloise ‘Ellie’ Turner, portrayed by Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit). At the start of the film, Ellie lives in the countryside of Cornwall located in South West England. There she dreams of being a world famous fashion designer. The catalyst, which could lead to her dream coming true, arrives in the form of a letter. Excited, Ellie shares the letter with her supportive grandmother Peggy played by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey). Ellie has been accepted to attend the London College of Fashion. While Peggy wants Ellie to follow her dreams, she is also worried. Ellie’s mother (Aimee Cassettari) had the same dreams of becoming a designer; dreams which ended, when she committed suicide. Furthermore, Ellie has an unusual gift. She can see the dead, and as shown to the viewer, Ellie sees her mother while looking into the full length mirror of her bedroom, as she is getting ready to leave the house.

When the quiet and unpretentious Ellie arrives at school, it doesn’t take long for her to feel alienated. This is due in large part to her mean spirited roommate Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen), who makes fun of her, it would seem, every chance she gets. There are also all-night parties, which keep Ellie up, when she’s trying to sleep, so she can be alert for her classes. Sensing that she would be better off on her own, Ellie rents a room, off campus, from the no-nonsense, Ms. Collins. The part is acted by Emmy and two time BAFTA winner Diana Rigg (Rebecca).

The first time Ellie goes to sleep in the room, she begins to have stunning dreams, where she is transported back to London, 1966. Ellie is enamored with the 1960s. She listens to the music, and hopes to emulate the fashion style of the time period, with a modern twist, in her own design work; therefore, the dreams offer her the perfect escape. In addition, Ellie doesn’t merely get to be an observer to other people’s lives, but she, in a manner of speaking, inhabits the mind and body of the self-assured and fashionable, Sandie, portrayed by BAFTA and Emmy nominee Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit). Like Ellie, Sandie has aspirations of her own. She wants to be a singer, and will seemingly do whatever it takes to rise to the top of the profession. 

After she experiences her first dream, Ellie can’t wait to go to sleep again that evening. She wants to be whisked away once more, to become Sandie. Ellie even tells the kind hearted John (Michael Ajao), her one true friend at school, that she already has plans for the evening. Not socializing with her friend is just the beginning. Ellie changes the color of her hair from brown to blonde so she can appear more like Sandie. In addition, she purchases an expensive coat from a vintage clothing shop, the same style of coat that Sandie wears. Ellie does this, it would seem, in order to keep as many of the good feelings with her throughout the day, that Sandie instills in her when she dreams.

The dreams stay good for a while. From the first moment he meets Sandie at the Café de Paris nightclub, Jack played by Emmy nominee Matt Smith (The Crown) wants to manager Sandie. He promises to help make her dreams come true. Right after they meet, he gets her an audition at a club, where she competently performs two time Grammy winner Petula Clark’s 1964 hit song “Downtown.” As it turns out, Jack manages many girls, because in reality, he’s nothing more than a glorified pimp.

Sandie becomes immensely popular with Jack’s clientele. This, in turn, causes her to be miserable, which begins to take a terrible toll on Ellie, in both the dream world and real life. While Sandie’s new found predicament is bad enough, in the second half of the film, it veers off into an unexpected direction. Ellie finds herself attempting to solve a decades old mystery involving Sandie. She is doing this, not only to see that Sandie receives justice, but to save her own mental well being. Will Ellie succeed? Has the dream world taken too firm a grip on her, to the point where she no longer can decipher between what is real and what is imagined?

Trivia buffs take note: The film is the final performance for Diana Rigg. She was perhaps best known for her work as secret agent Emma Peel in “The Avengers,” which ran for 51 episodes on British television from 1965 to 1968, and more recently as Olenna Tyrell on the HBO hit “Game of Thrones.” In order to star in the movie, Thomasin McKenizie had to drop out of filming “Top Gun: Maverick.”  The filmmakers drew their inspiration for the movie from the following: The 1965 film “Repulsion” directed by Oscar winner Roman Polanski (The Pianist). The film stared Oscar and BAFTA nominee Catherine Deneuve (Indochine), two time BAFTA nominee Ian Hendry (Get Carter), and BAFTA nominee John Fraser (The Trials of Oscar Wilde). Additionally, the 1973 movie “Don’t Look Now,” which was based on a story written by Daphne Du Maurier, was also an inspiration. The film starred Oscar winner Julie Christie (Darling), and two time Golden Globe winner Donald Sutherland (Citizen X). The movie was directed by three time BAFTA nominee Nicholas Roeg (The Witches). Sandie orders a vesper from the bartender at the club. The fictional drink was written about by James Bond creator Ian Fleming, in his 1953 novel “Casino Royale.” Fans of the Harry Potter film series will perhaps notice that twins James and Oliver Phelps, who portrayed Fred and George Weasley in the movies, play the part of the cloakroom attendant.

“Last Night in Soho” was directed by three time BAFTA nominee Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). Furthermore, Wright co-wrote the screenplay with BAFTA winner and Oscar nominee Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917), based off of a story he wrote. The film premiered on September 4, 2021 at the Venice Film Festival. Parts drama, horror, mystery, and thriller, the movie has a runtime of 116 minutes. The soundtrack to the film, composed by Oscar winner Steven Price, (Gravity) helps to enhance the story. For that matter, the soundtrack, which features songs by, but not limited to, Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and The Kinks, also helps to enhance the film. The cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung (The Handmaiden)  does an excellent job of capturing and delineating between the modern day and the look of 1966.

I hadn’t read anything about “Last Night in Soho” before I sat down to watch the film. After sitting captivated by what I was watching for almost two hours, I am glad I had refrained from reading reviews of the movie. In my opinion, spoilers for this particular film could have detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. The performances from all in the cast were spot on. Thomasin and Taylor-Joy especially embodied their respective roles. Recommended to all who love cinema. The movie is a true gem.

                                                                                 

About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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3 Responses to “Last Night in Soho”

  1. Thanks for the review! I learned a lot. I was really looking forward to this movie, and didn’t really like it. But I will appreciate it more the next time I see it, keeping some of this good trivia in mind!🙌🏼

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