What happens when you combine a time-travel tale with a noir ghost story, all wrapped as a love letter to the Swinging Sixties? You get Last Night in Soho, which never truly finds solid footing from any of the previously listed genres throughout its 116-minute runtime. From the outside looking in, this feature film looks incredibly slick, which is perfectly released around Halloween, but when you take a closer look at its substance, it’s as thin as a simple bedsheet used for trick or treating.
In what begins as the story of an aspiring fashion designer, Eloise (played by Thomasin McKenzie) plays the part of a country mouse moving to the big city. Full of old-fashioned values, she immediately feels out of place attending a fancy fashion house. Fighting the demons of her past, she’s running from an unmentionable event concerning her mother (more on this later). She also has some sort of sixth sense which transports her into the past life of an aspiring night club singer, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).
Looking to become a superstar, Sandie’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious and the character’s on-screen moments are the highlights of the film. Everything, from the slick-looking production design recreating the decade’s looks to the themed music (Taylor-Joy’s “Downtown” performance sounded great) are clearly a nostalgic “dark valentine” written by the filmmaker to himself.
What feels like a cautionary tale of entering the showbiz lifestyle involves a heaping dose of psychological horror. Taking place within the dark underbelly of British indie films, it’s an incredibly dangerous place, especially for women. Sandie learns this firsthand and through time travel, Ellie ignores her final project in order to resolve this past-life experience.
Set and shot entirely in London (the director actually lives in the depicted neighborhood), is this the director’s epic #MeToo film? Sure feels like it. The acting is great (can’t forget Matt Smith!) and looks superb on the big screen (the film should win praise for its cinematography), but the storyline is a complete mess.
Plot holes become red herrings and get completely ignored. Characters/goals are briefly mentioned before completely disappearing. All the while, the overall theme changes drastically. Neither the ghost story nor the retro-chic revenge fantasy are completely resolved. Why are these experiences happening to Ellie? Have they happened to anyone else? What’s her connection to Sandie? And why even mention Ellie’s mother if you’re not going to provide a tragic backstory that becomes some sort of motivation?
I’m still craving a small slice of resolution pie…
More than anything else, the movie’s conclusion veers from unique to feeling generic with an incredibly convenient plot twist. Fans of Edgar Wright’s past films won’t find his patented dark humor here and I wonder if this release suffers from studio interference or just bad writing (Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns are credited with its screenplay).
Overall, Soho is more an awards-nomination opportunity awaiting Anya Taylor-Joy than a three-act storyline for McKenzie. In fact, Thomasin’s role is basically the exposition to bringing Sandie to the screen.
As a fan of Taylor-Joy ever since first laying eyes on her in The Witch (she even plays a character named Thomasin in that film!), I enjoyed her role here and hope she receives plenty of accolades for her performance. But looks can be deceiving for Last Night is Soho.
This one doesn’t feel like a complete story… just a teaser trailer for something unreleased.