A fevered, psychedelic dream, Last Night in Soho is a seductive ride through the eponymous space in the ‘60s. One almost expects Austin Powers to be flashing his tombstone teeth at one of the nightclubs. Even if the Soho that Baby Driver’s Edgar Wright conjures up only exists in our collective imagination, it is no less alluring.
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It is one in the eye for all the cynics who say nostalgia is a longing for a past that never was. There is no harm and a lot of good in dreaming of being Audrey Hepburn in pearls and Givenchy.
Eloise “Ellie” (Thomasin McKenzie) dreams of being a fashion designer just like her mum. One look at her room in her grandmum’s (Rita Tushingham) place in Cornwall with its ‘60s vinyl records and poster of Breakfast at Tiffany’s convinces you of her excellent taste. And then there is the newspaper dress she is wearing when she gets the letter of acceptance from the London College of Fashion to seal the deal.
Ellie gets to London and unhappy with her horrid jeering roommate, Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), she moves into a bedsit owned by Mrs Collins (Diana Rigg). On her first night at the bedsit, Ellie has a vivid dream where she sees herself as a confident blond girl, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) stalking Soho in the ‘60s. You know it is the 60s because Thunderball is playing in the cinemas. Another James Bond connection is that. Diana Rigg played Bond’s wife of a few hours in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service ...
Sandie wants to be a singer and meets a manager Jack (Matt Smith) who promises to help her get an audition. Ellie uses Sandie as her muse and creates a floaty dress, impressing her instructor with her dictum of creating a dress for the wearer, and the not the other way around.
As days pass, Ellie visions take on a darker turn and she begins to see a sinister side to Soho. A strange man (Terence Stamp) seems to be following Ellie, which disturbs her further. One of Ellie’s classmates, John (Michael Ajao) who cares for Ellie, is worried as her behaviour becomes stranger.
Inspired by his parents’ stories of growing up in the 60s, Wright pitched Last Night in Soho as a love letter to that particular time and space. However, he also wanted it to be a cautionary tale of the danger of romanticizing the past.
The film truly is the best kind of love letter to cinema and an era. The music and fashion are exquisite eye and aural candy. Anya Taylor-Joy ( The Queen’s Gambit ) gives another arresting turn, while Matt Smith is smooth as jazz. The mash-up of genres from time travel to psychological thriller to straight-up slasher film is part of the appeal of the film. Groovy baby!
Last Night in Soho is currently running in theatres