by Tim Gordon
Last Night in Soho is a psychological horror film directed by Edgar Wright, with a screenplay by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, from a story by Wright.
The film stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, and Terence Stamp. The film marks the final film appearances of both Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who died in September and October 2020, respectively. The film, which is dedicated to the memory of Rigg, focuses on an aspiring fashion designer who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. However, glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
The story follows a young future fashion designer, Eloise Turner (McKenzie) who aspires to leave her small, tiny hamlet for a larger stage in the big city. Blessed with the gift of sight, El often sees her deceased mother in her reflection, even though she took her own life when El was young. Raised by her grandmother, she finally gets an opportunity to pursue her passion in London with a scholarship to a fashion school.
Once in school, El’s free-spirited personality is in contrast with her roommate, Jocasta’s (Synnøve Karlsen) wild behavior and soon El is looking for a new place to live. She answered the ad for a small loft room in a boarding house owned by Ms. Collins (Riggs). She cautiously warns her new renter, no men after eight, while telling her that the house has an interesting history.
El discovers this first-hand when as soon as she goes to bed, she is transported to 1960’s London through the eyes of an aspiring singer, Sandie (Taylor-Joy). She experiences her journey through her eyes as she meets a prospective lover, Jack (Smith), and begins a whirlwind relationship as she pursues her dreams. While she enjoys the nightlife through Sandie’s eyes, her designs show that she has true promise. But soon her night-time adventures began to blend into her reality creating a true paradox for the suddenly paranoid young lady whose story she can’t share because she really doesn’t understand it herself.
Co-written and directed by Wright, he displays the talent that he showcased in his films such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Baby Driver. His colorful stylish take on the story is reminiscent of the 1970’s horror film, J.D.’s Revenge, which also sees the title character being embodied the spirit of a person from an earlier time and must navigate the various challenges to help them ultimately rest in peace.
Wright gets two solid performances from his two co-leads, McKenzie and Taylor-Joy. McKenzie has to straddle both wonderment and paranoia as she is initially drawn and later terrified by experiences and challenges of trying to help the spirit channel her subconscious. Fresh off her Emmy-winning performance in Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, Taylor-Joy adds another impressive performance to her growing collage of memorable characters. In addition, Soho features the final performance of a couple of legendary British Bond veterans, Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan, as well as Terrence Stamp, their supporting performances greatly enhance this winning tale.
The film takes a concept that has been used in many stories but using the backdrop of the 1960s London nightlife and fashion and with the help of a great screenplay, wonderful supporting performances, and two co-leads who perfectly complement one another. One of my favorite visual filmmakers, Wright curated the soundtrack, largely made up of songs from his ’60s-inspired film.