Movie Review: Last Night in Soho (2021)

TL;DR – psychological thriller involving ghosts, psychic connections, and 60s music.

Review (warning: spoilers)

There is a scene in Last Night in Soho between Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) and Miss Collins (Diana Rigg). Eloise is renting a bedsit in Miss Collins’s house, and after a number of surreal events, she asks:

“Did someone die in my room?”

“This is London,” scoffs Miss Collins. “Someone’s died in every room in every building in this whole city. Every street corner, too.”

Eloise has moved from her rural home to Ye Ol’ London to study to become a fashion designer at the London College of Fashion. Her bright-eyed and innocent exuberance starts taking a turn when the move is not all it’s cracked up to be. The student dorms she initially stays in is filled with passive aggressive cliques, and her roommate, Jocasta (Synnove Karlsen) has a particular predilection for putting her down. This leads Eloise to pack her bags and move to the rental.

That’s when things start getting real weird. Eloise’s first night transports her back to the 1960s where she appears to be in the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a beautiful blonde girl trying to break into the singing business. There she meets Jack (Matt Smith) who is an agent/manager for various singers and is immediately struck by Sandie’s confidence. Jack and Sandie dance in a club and share a passionate embrace where Jack kisses her neck in a mirrored room, and we see Eloise in the reflection also being kissed by Jack (as if feeling the moment being inside Sandie).

When Eloise awakens, she thinks it’s a dream. But inspired by Sandie’s determination to become a singer, Eloise dyes her hair blonde and designs a dress that is 60s inspired and impresses her teacher. It’s then Eloise notices that she has a hickey on her neck and starts to believe it wasn’t just a dream.

Eloise’s present life starts mixing with Sandie’s past, and the rabbit hole gets dark when Eloise realises that Sandie has been tricked by Jack who gets her to be an exotic dancer and later a prostitute. To Eloise’s horror, Jack has become Sandie’s pimp, and all her dreams of becoming a singer have disappeared.

The mental overload starts crossing over during the day when Eloise sees apparitions of Jack and all the men that Eloise was forced to sleep with. Her sanity holds by a thread when in one vision she sees Sandie being held down in bed with Jack looming over her with a knife. The camera zooms in on the knife to reflect Eloise’s horror as blood goes flying.

Though you’re given the impression that Eloise has been murdered, the twist is she managed to wrench the knife away from Jack and kill him instead. Eloise then goes on a revenge murder spree and killing every man that took advantage of her.

When Eloise uncovers the truth, she discovers that Sandie is actually the present day, Miss Collins, and all the dead bodies have been buried in under the floorboards and in the walls of her house (how Miss Collins aka Sandie managed to get away with all these murders and prevent the stink of decaying corpses from permeating her entire home is a mystery).

The final confrontation between Eloise and Miss Collins/Sandie ends in the house being burned down and Miss Collins/Sandie accepting her fate and dying in the fire. Thus ends the tragic life of Miss Collins/Sandie.

Though it is never fully explained, Eloise appears to be a psychic medium. Throughout the film there are references to her mother who came to London, suffered a mental breakdown that resulted in her suicide, which would indicate that Eloise’s mother may have also been a psychic. At the beginning of the film, Eloise sees her mother in her mirror, which initially you think might just be a memory but later realise is her ghost.

London is the perfect setting to be overloaded by all the murders that have come before, and Eloise manages to survive through luck and the faith and trust of her sole friend, John (Michael Ajao), who she meets at the college and perseveres by her side even though everyone around Eloise thinks she is going mad.

The film’s strongest elements are in its casting, McKenzie, Taylor-Joy, Rigg and Smith are excellent and the choreography of 60s Soho clubs along with a brilliant soundtrack, allow the viewer to become immersed in the story.

Unfortunately, the story itself and the thriller/horror elements are a bit pedestrian. Eloise’s classmates are shallow to a fault and their passive aggressive nature does little to add to the story. The character Jocasta is particularly one-dimensional, embodying a bully that is more suitable in a high school setting than a college one. The mystery and twist around Sandie’s past life is evident when you examine the fact that the stabbing scene is never revealed in its entirety (not until the twist is revealed). The close-up of the plunging blade becoming more and more bloody is artistically clever but it shouts out that not everything is what it seems. It also doesn’t make much sense that Eloise, who witnesses the killing, doesn’t see that it ends up being Jack who is killed. She’s not stuck like we are (as the viewer) by a camera close up of the blade, so she should have seen that Sandie successfully wrenches the blade from Jack and stabs him. Yet, after this vision, Eloise is of the belief that Sandie is the one who was murdered.

Last Night in Soho is stylish with not quite enough substance, but you can still enjoy it for the strong cast and excellent soundtrack.

6 out of 10

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