Film And Movies

What Went Wrong With… Last Night In Soho (2021)?

Neon sign for Last Night Is Soho

It’s so irritating when a film has an intriguing premise, a talented and likeable lead, and all the visuals to make your eyes widen with delight, but then, approximately half-way through, it all goes horribly wrong. This is what watching Last Night In Soho was like; it started off entertaining, even gripping at times, but then it got progressively worse until it descended into nonsensical rubbish. Before going into detail, I’ll give a plot description: Last Night In Soho is about a ’60s-obsessed young woman named Eloise who travels from rural Cornwall to urban London to enroll in the London College of Fashion. In a Quantum Leap meets Frequency kind of way, Eloise begins to have visions of a woman named Sandie, an old occupant of the building she rents a room in, who possibly shared the same bedsit as her. Sandie, who had aspirations of being a singer but whose dreams turned into nightmares after being groomed and forced into prostitution, may have met her maker back in the Swinging Sixties. So, can Eloise work out what happened to Sandie and retrospectively help?

Well, the answer to that question is “no!”. Eloise has an unspecified mental health issue which means she doesn’t investigate a thing (except for one minor scene involving the filmic cliché of scrolling through microfiche at a library – but not finding anything). Aside from these few minutes, Ellie has mental episode after mental episode, resulting in an annoying diversion from the matter at hand; a murder victim in the past and potentially a killer on the loose in the present day. I mentioned Frequency earlier but that’s a little inaccurate. There’s no satisfying, time-based conclusion here, nothing on par with “You went down 30 years ago pal, you just don’t know it yet”.

Described as a psychological horror film, Last Night In Soho is, but only for the first act. I have to stress how good this movie is at the beginning, like The Secret Of My Success meets Suspiria by way of Quantum Leap. With an instantly likeable, out-of-town, fish-out-of-water lead character (Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise “Ellie” Turner), a dislikeable roommate-slash-bully called Jocasta (brilliantly played by Synnøve Karlsen) and a thrilling time travel plot involving wannabe singer Sandie in the 1960s (Anya Taylor-Joy) this flick had everything going for it. If this was solely about solving a crime from the past, it would have been perfect, but instead we have a narrative that unravels and keeps unraveling until the story is all spool and no film.

Directed by Edgar Wright (“The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”) with a screenplay by Wright and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) I have no idea what the point of the 60’s setting was. After first watching the trailer, I assumed this was a British counterpart to Once Upon A Time In America; someone from the present day slobbering over the past, a time they barely existed in, in order to know whether it was the kind of place they’re depicting on screen. Like Once Upon, this is partly a rose-tinted nostalgia piece that acts like a promo for the good ol’ days but then we have a storyline that involves a “hidden” underbelly of a metropolitan city. Soho, for anyone who hasn’t been, has always been a sleazy place, going from being a seedy, porn-capital last century to the gentrified crap-ville of today. Personally, I can’t stand any part of London. “London is a bad place” is a line in this movie but maybe “shithole” is a more accurate description (it always was, and always will be). Ellie’s grandmother played by Rita Tushingham knows all about having a shite time in London given that she starred in Straight On Till Morning. But I guess that was the 1970’s.

The scene where Ellie (as Sandie) first walks out toward a cinema is an example of this sham-nostalgia. The 60’s is all beehive hair-dos and flowing dresses that make you look pregnant, and that’s apparently a good thing. Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors, Thunderball, and Cilla Black is the best the decade has to offer… well, one out of three ain’t bad. Given the storyline, grooming is clearly a problem in every decade and for every generation, and yet most people (especially from the 1960’s) now think it’s just down to Muslim gangs and everything was hunky-dory back in the day. Whatever the point being made here, the Rialto club turning into a place that does Thai Massage is progress in my book.

In my opinion, regardless of where and when this film is set, the focus of the narrative should have been research and sifting through clues. There’s less investigating of a crime and more screaming and running away from spooks here. At the point when Eloise starts to lose the plot, so do the film-makers. Here’s all the problems I saw (most of them occur from the mid-point onward)…

LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD

    • There’s lots of (almost too many) Quantum Leap mirror glances and not all of them work, especially the obvious double for Matt Smith on Ellie’s side of the reflection.

    • Are Ellie’s visions sleep-induced? Is it because she’s sleeping in the same room as Sandie did? Is it because of Sandie’s ghost? Err, no because we later discover she isn’t dead, so why is any of this happening?

    • Why is the vision that involves a knife attack/stabbing on a bed incorrect but all others are broadcast to Ellie’s noggin exactly how they happened? Because Wright and Wilson-Cairns want to force a twist?

    • Instead of initially being haunted by Sandie, Ellie begins to be haunted by Sandie’s clients (in a really corny way I might add) that’s realised with Doctor Who-level CGI and acting. Since we don’t know these people are dead at that point in the story, these spirits spoil the tone (and eventually plot) looking like a theatre play about sex work for most of the film.

    • Most of these dead men presumably just paid for sex, they didn’t force Sandie into her situation. Matt Smith’s “Jack” and her first client (who says he knows Sandie isn’t asleep) are the only ones forcing or coercing her into sex. So why kill all of the others?

    • Why are these dead men holding Ellie down on the bed one minute, and the next minute yelling “help us!”. Get your filthy hands off her and let Eloise use the effing rotary phone to call… err… the police? (which could take ages given “9” is at the end). Although, calling the pigs isn’t going to stop their torment, whatever that may be.

    • Sandie who sings in a mediocre way through her horse chompers, isn’t talented enough to make it as a singer, as far as my ears can tell, so if her undeserved career can only be achieved by laying on the casting couch, it’s partly her own doing. If Sandie doesn’t want to sleep with random men, don’t do it. Or are some people okay with being abused as long as their “dream” is fulfilled? If this is the case, she’s hardly a victim on par with foreigners having their passports and money stolen and made to “earn” them back with genuinely forced prostitution. Someone laying on their back to become a “star” is a very first-world problem in comparison to actual modern slavery and sex trafficking. Get over yourself.

    • Older Sandie says she’s reminded of the ’60s because of Ellie’s penchant for the decade, so she brings her old records out. But wasn’t that time tarnished with sadness and depression? Why put on a vinyl record from the time you were raped (repeatedly)?

    • Is older Sandie supposed to be a victim? She just poisoned our protagonist Ellie and stabbed her boyfriend John (both innocent by the way) but oh no, Sandie “died a hundred times” apparently, because she became a prostitute, so boo hoo to the psycho.

    • A bunch of horny blokes who did nothing more than buy a bottle of bubbly for a club-provided sex worker are killed. How is it their fault that Sandie is an easily-led moron? These dirty old men aren’t worth saving however, because it’s better to “save” the murderer since she was hard done by back in the 1960s.

    • “Save the boy!” Sandie says; you mean the boy you stabbed a few minutes ago with no remorse? And why call him “boy”? Sandie is no hero.

    • Instead of being a murder victim, the daft twist makes Sandie a serial killer of epic proportions but c’mon, when her clients began mysteriously disappearing in the 60’s, didn’t someone twig? That’s the hooker that no man returns from, let’s book a night with her!

    • Sandie tells one of her clients that her real name is Alex, so that name visible on an envelope ruins any wannabe twist (it’s predictable regardless).

    • Anya Taylor-Joy has such a prominent philtrum that she couldn’t ever age into Diana Rigg.

    • Terrance Stamp isn’t an unattractive, lanky bloke, so him not being the older “Jack” is no surprise. Although, given that the actor playing Cilla Black doesn’t look anything like her, I was willing to go along with this possible bad casting.

    • Ellie’s blonde hair looks very wig-like in some scenes (in fact I think it is a wig most of the time).

    • Ellie’s grandmother existing in the 1960’s and her having a dead mother are irrelevant and has nothing to do with the plot. I at least expected the grandmother to have some kind of connection with Sandie but nope.

    • During the finale, Ellie’s grandmother says her mother would be “so proud” but instead of her mum’s reflection in the mirror (which is a constant for Ellie since the start of the film) it’s Sandie we see which makes zero sense given we know she got old and what became of her.

    • Eloise’s original roommate Jocasta may be a bullying arsehole but everyone seems to forget that Ellie almost stabbed her in the face with a pair of scissors at the library. Ignore that little police matter, she’s oh “so brave”.

    • Why isn’t John showing his designs at the college fashion show? They looked better than Ellie’s 60’s “inspired” (translates as copied) stuff.

    • Apparently designing dull dresses that look like 1960’s cupcakes gets you a first class degree. But at this point, who gives a toss?

    • Siouxsie And The Banshees’ “Happy House” is neither 60’s, 20’s, or Halloween-themed so what’s the bleeding point of it playing? A middle-aged writer-director who doesn’t know about new music perhaps?

    • The BBFC have given this an 18 certificate! There’s hardly any violence or depictions of violent rape, just a bit of blood and Matt Smith repeatedly yelling “you wanted this!”. As cockneys would say; are you ‘aving a larf?

    At times, Last Night In Soho looks like it was greenlit because it skirts around mental illness and fits into the Me Too movement. A white male director declaring “look at my film filled with issues… I’m on your side!” feels like another Aeronauts or The Perfection to me, a fake-woke piece of meaningless non-entertainment for profit. Don’t get me wrong, women should tell their stories – watch Promising Young Woman as an example of how to make a genuine film about rapey men – but stop trying to crow-bar sexism and misogyny into random scripts and wreck a potential classic in the process. With such levels of ruination, this got nothing but a groan out of me by the time the credits rolled. All that Last Night In Soho succeeded in doing was getting me humming Petula Clark’s “Downtown” for the rest of the day but that’s about it.

    Last Night In So-So.

    Writing: 3/10

    Directing: 6/10

    Acting: 6/10

    Overall: 5/10

2 replies »

  1. I’ve never heard of ‘what went wrong with’ before today… and I feel like I’ve stumbled into some far-right Jesus preaching church. It’s impressive that I read all of this nonsense though. I’ll give the writer credit for writing an entertaining review. “a fake-woke piece of meaningless non-entertainment for profit.” Had me laughing a lot. To the anti-woke person that decided to write this review, maybe stick to films like ‘Citizen Kane’ or any other film loved in the crazy right-wing world you live in.

    • Hilarious. You “stumbled” across one review, quickly read it and deduced I was both “far-right” and “anti-woke” simply because it bashed a film you presumably enjoyed.

      FYI:

      1. I’m liberal and left-wing
      2. I’m anti-anti-woke aka genuinely woke

      Congratulating a white man from Hollywood for including sexual grooming in a screenplay made for financial profit is hardly woke, hence the term “fake-woke” in the bloody review! Maybe read my article on the right-wing’s subversion and weaponising of the term “woke” and understand my new-found disliking of the word:

      What Went Wrong With… The Word “Woke”?

      I doubt that someone who’s written articles denouncing everything from Fox News to post-9/11 Islamophobia is right-leaning but go ahead and make incorrect assumptions because you’re one of those typically closeted sham liberals who can’t take a differing opinion.

      Oh, and BTW, I hate Citizen Kane, another thing Mr. Tyler “I Don’t Know What The Hell I’m Talking About” Cooper got wrong:

      What Went Wrong With… Mank (2020)?

      What’s truly nonsense therefore, is your moronic and pointless comment. Now piss off back to you safe little fake-woke world, you fake-left fuckwit.

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