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‘Last Night in Soho’ and following days in confusion

| Thursday, November 11, 2021

 

Claire Kirner | The Observer

Warning: This review contains spoilers and mentions of sexual assault.

Taking an hour or so to sit with a newly-watched movie is one of my favorite things to do; it lets me soak in the film as a whole while I try to process what I’ve just witnessed. However, doing this with “Last Night in Soho” has left me even more confused than when the credits began to roll.

 “Last Night in Soho” is a story about Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), a fashion student obsessed with the 1960s who has moved to school in London from a small town in Cornwall. After some terrible experiences with her roommate, she moves into a bedsit of an old woman’s apartment in Soho. On her first night, she is teleported to the 1960s in her dreams and lives through an aspiring performer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy).

Every night, Ellie dreams of Sandie’s life, and eventually, Sandie’s life starts coming into her reality. In her dreams of becoming a performer, Sandie’s boyfriend and manager, Jack (Matt Smith), begins pimping her out to men, telling her that it’s the only way to become a big star. Ellie lives through Sandie’s abuse and actively tries to protect her from the men who prey on her every night (all to no avail).

In her waking moments, Ellie has visions of these men and eventually sees Sandie being murdered by Jack in her own bed. Haunted by the ghosts of Sandie and of the men (Jack included), Ellie begins to spiral out of control as she tries to warn the police about Sandie’s murder (give or take 60 years posthumously), and she accuses an old man who hangs around the bar she works at to be Jack.

In the end, it turns out to be that the old woman she lives with, Ms. Collins, is Sandie. She confesses to Ellie that she killed Jack and all the other men who abused her, hiding their bodies in the structures of her home. A great struggle occurs between the women, the apartment catches fire and Ms. Collins eventually resigns herself to die in the flames for what she has done. Ellie comes out of this (seemingly) mentally healthy, free of visions of Sandie and successful in fashion school.

Even though I am a big fan of Edgar Wright’s work, I found that there were so many places where things went wrong. The story itself was good and the twist at the end was thrilling and unexpected, but I have problems with the twist itself. For the entirety of the movie, Wright builds a relationship between Ellie and Sandie, showing a parallel between their mutual struggles with misogyny and sexual harassment. Ellie constantly tries to protect Sandie from the men who hunt her, and Ellie (at the beginning) even tries to model herself after Sandie’s style and fashion.

Despite this, Wright’s twist destroys what he had so tirelessly built up in the majority of the movie. This movie details an unfortunately true narrative regarding the nature of violence against women pervading throughout the centuries… until it doesn’t. Ms. Collins’ confession destroys the bond between Ellie and Sandie and makes the plot more sinister. It displayed less of a revenge-type, “good-for-her” type motivation like in Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” (2020), and more of a lust for violence motivated by abuse.

I have many other questions concerning Ellie’s mental well-being, her unexplained visions of ghosts even before coming to London and her latter boyfriend John’s dedication to taking care of her and keeping her safe (which is laudable but a bit concerning), but those might take a bit too long to unpack.

Regardless, the movie did not lack in its cinematography, score and casting (though I found that Wright did not employ humor in the movie as much as he usually does). I enjoyed it, and as a person who doesn’t watch horror or thriller movies often, I found it to be quite engaging and entertaining. This movie was a bit of a step out of Edgar Wright’s typical style, but I am still debating whether this leap was worth it.

Title: “Last Night in Soho”

Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith

Director: Edgar Wright

If you like: “Baby Driver,” “Malignant,” “The Handmaiden”

Shamrocks: 3 out of 5

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About Anna Falk

Anna is a sophomore studying neuroscience, French, and linguistics. You should follow her Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/user/annam.falk?si=88e09848b64547c3

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