“An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.”

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Staring: Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith, Anya Taylor-Joy, Diana Rigg
Where To Watch: Theaters
Release Date: October 29, 2021

Before we even dive into the movie itself, Last Night In Soho (2021) deserves praise for its teasers, trailer and pre-release marketing. You could watch every preview and still not have a hint of what the story and movie is truly about. Credit to everyone involved for not dumbing it down and leaving a lot to mystery.

Now, onto the show.

Last Night In Soho marks the return of one of Hollywood’s true original thinkers, Edgar Wright. None of the stories Wright has composed or adapted are what one would say, straightforward. There are layers to pick up with every little nuance, and such is the same with Last Night In Soho. A fantastic screenplay supplemented by a talented core of actors and memorable performances makes Last Night In Soho a fast-paced and tantalizing thriller.

Eloise is a young aspiring fashion designer who got accepted to university in Soho London. After not fitting in at the college dorm, Eloise rents out an apartment and soon finds herself visiting the exotic and confident Sandie in her dreams during the bustling year of 1965. As Eloise becomes engulfed in her REM world, the glamor of Sandie’s story begins to flicker away and Eloise is sent down a spiral of broken dreams, broken hearts and broken memory.

There are multiple themes that run through Last Night In Soho, but the overarching one can be summed down to the oft-quoted phrase: “Take a look at yourself in the mirror.”

Branching off that umbrella statement in the literal sense first, our initial introduction to Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) involves a mirror. We see her in a reflection and we see a major part of her past and fragmented mental health when her mom (Aimee Cassettari) also makes an appearance. From there, Wright throws mirrors throughout the entire story. In Eloise’s dreams she is chasing Sandie often in view of mirrors, trailing her like a shadow trying to chase her extroverted counterpart. In modern Soho, Eloise is also working with a mirror non-stop in fashion school attempting to recreate the pink flowy dress of Sandie.

Mirrors are everywhere.

Eloise as a character is conscious of her mental handicaps and is always reflecting on her own situation. When she sees Sandie for the first time, Eloise becomes enthralled with the fame-seeking, extroverted, confident and sexy 1960s persona. It leads to a crisis of consciousness and her fascination becomes a transformation. Now Eloise doesn’t know what she is looking at in her own mirror, in her own self reflections. When Sandie’s journey doesn’t end in a happy way, her mirror cracks, as does her grip on reality.

The themes of Last Night In Soho are brought to life by the performances of Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith and Michael Ajao.

Beginning with the easiest to compliment of the bunch…Michael Ajao is fucking lovable as John. Playing the part of Eloise’s freshman romantic kindling, Ajao makes the entire audience root for him with every flirting attempt he makes. He is patient, funny, corny and most of all endearing. He won’t get any out of pocket attention, but he deserves the love.

Matt Smith is very entertaining as the slimeball Jack, who whores out the desperate Sandie for his own gain while constantly feeding her lies. The most we get of Jack in terms of him acting out a part and not in fading terrors and mysterious vagaries comes when Eloise first enters the 1960s in her dream. Sandie meets with Jack and they have a scene that is the most memorable in the entire movie. He has a sneer that is reminiscent of classic Disney movie villains. Is he getting better at being malevolent with practice in his new Game Of Thrones role?

Is Anya Taylor-Joy the new Jennifer Lawrence? The new “it” girl? Much like in many of her recent projects, Taylor-Joy is swallowing up the screen and raising everyone else around her. She has the terrifying confidence that is the wonderful version of scary and sexy. Her swagger when she appears appears on screen makes you want to stick it to the man, and starting at the high made her downfall even more tragic. As is exemplified in the movie, the persona of Sandie dies and Taylor-Joy makes it heartbreaking.

And just finishing up on how Taylor-Joy maybe the new Lawrence. Taylor-Joy still needs the Academy Awards success, but a primetime Emmy and combination of commercial success and independent darlings gives her a resume well worth boasting about. Also Taylor-Joy is going to be in the new David O. Russell project, the director that brought Lawrence into the forefront of many with Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

All aboard the Thomas McKenzie train. I am the conductor. McKenzie is wonderful in Last Night In Soho. She starts out the movie reminding the audience of Aubrey Hepburn, yet by the end of the story she is utterly believable as the harrowing survivor of a horror story. McKenzie first got world renowned after playing Elsa in Jojo Rabbit (2019), and with the success of Last Night In Soho and the buzz surrounding The Power Of The Dog (2021) which she is also in, the world is going to know whom McKenzie is. Speaking solely for myself, Jonathan Stanko, I am inviting McKenzie to “Up-And-Coming Island” where Samara Weaving and Florence Pugh are.

Without getting too deep into potential spoilers, it is worth pointing out how well Last Night In Soho‘s script comes full circle. One thing that Sandie always mentions and Jack always references is the idea of her needing to climb her way up to fame and recognition. At the end of the movie, Eloise is crawling up stairs hoping to reach her goal while being terrorized by the story’s entities that are trying to curtail her happiness. The idea of needing to struggle uphill is not not limited to achieving your own definition of success, but it is also the necessary thing to do to push yourself to life and survive in the most naturalistic sense.

There is one small thing that I noticed which would have been an awesome added nugget, but the timing that script outlined made it just out of reach. Eloise’s landlord is played by Diana Rigg, who many know as Olenna Tyrell from Game Of Thrones. A lesser known role of hers is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), a lesser known bond movie. When Eloise first arrives in 1965, there is a giant movie theater sign saying Thunderball (1965) is the newest blockbuster to hit the silver screen. What if the movie was set in 1969 and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the new movie being advertised with all the hurrah and huzzah. It would have been a massive little nod to Rigg.

Last Night In Soho is a genre-bending entertainment vessel that allows for both deep thinking and entertainment. Edgar Wright pens a script that has turns that are genuinely surprising. The performances from the main trio allow this movie to stand tall, and the extra add-ons of costume design flair, creative lighting, thematic expanses ensure Last Night In Soho as one of the best movies of 2021.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

P.S. – Here is something extra. My rankings and ratings of the Edgar Wright directed movies I have seen (which is not as many as I should have)

  1. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: B+
  2. Last Night In Soho: B+
  3. Shaun Of The Dead: B+
  4. Baby Driver: A-
  5. Hot Fuzz: B+
  6. The World’s End: B

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