Last Night in Soho premiered this weekend (October 29) in cinemas as part of the horror repertoire of October 2021. Its director Edgar Wright is well known for fun musical-oriented but critically acclaimed movies such as Baby Driver and Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and his latest release does not disappoint either. With big stars playing the leads, aesthetically pleasing visuals, a great soundtrack and an intriguing plot, Last Night in Soho might become one of the best releases of 2021. I recommend going in blind when seeing this movie as the plot twist will be very satisfying.
The movie tells the story of Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a country-side naïve girl from Cornwall that moves to London after she gets accepted at London College of Fashion. College and London may not be as exciting as she thought (well, the movie does have a tendency of proving our protagonist wrong), as she hardly fits in with her mates that are fans of the Kardashian-Instagram look. Eloise is obsessed with the 60s, the decade influencing her style and her music taste. We see it right off the bat in the opening scene: her room full of posters, her dress made from newspapers and the 1964 hit playing, “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon.
Like in many of this director’s movies, the heroine is a smart outcast, being bullied by the Kardashian-Jenner followers from the get-go because she wears clothes that she designed (isn’t that the whole point of going to fashion school?). Her classmates are not exaggerated figures, they highlight a reality: small creators are often copied by rich influencer-based businesses that want to come out with the next TikTok micro-trend in fashion.
From the beginning we’re told about her “gift”: the ability to see real things that happened in her dreams, a gift that made her mother kill herself when she was young. Through her dreams, we see the story of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring young singer that lives in London’s 1960s. This sets the scene for the atmospheric and nostalgic neon-lighting visuals that the movie displays. We follow our alluring diva through the dark and groovy alleys and bars of the swinging sixties, full of glamour, music, knee-high boots and dirt as well.
At the heart of the movie, there is a strong message that transcends time in the story’s universe and in our lives too: sexual harassment, a reality women have been facing throughout time, incited more often than not by men. The movie excels in portraying how gruesome and widespread this phenomenon is, through the visual shots of old white men unbuckling their pants repeatedly, becoming faceless ghosts by the end that haunt our protagonist. From the beginning we see Eloise being asked uncomfortable and private questions by the taxi driver that drives her to her student dorm. He comments on her looks and completely ignores her when she tells him she studies fashion, assuming the fact that she is “studying” to become a model, with her legs and all.
The horror element of Last Night in Soho might not be in the supernatural and murder parts of the last act, but in the plain sight of a woman’s everyday life. We see misogyny at play the best in Sandie’s part of the story, when she tries to become a singer through a so-called manager that ends up being a pimp. The scene where she performs as a dancer in front of dozens of old white men is simply repulsive and stresses the way women have been objectified by men. As Sandie’s story gets even more tragic, our protagonist learns that the 60s were not so great indeed.
The last act wraps the film nicely, even though it felt a bit rushed as all the horror scenes get dumped at the end, with several jump scares popping up. The dreams she once projected herself in, the 60’s dance hall where we see Sandie dancing, but the reflection reveals Eloise, speak of the artist’s need to remain in their fantasy world, ultimately caging itself in this world and ignoring reality, like the main character in Last Night in Soho does. This mania becomes a living nightmare eventually when the glamour fades. We see Eloise go into a psychotic state as she desperately tries to save Sandie from dying. She cannot discern from reality and nightmare. In the end, the film wraps up after a plot twist and a dramatic ending to one of the character’s stories.