Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho, 2021, 3 stars

Film projection

Last Night is a sexy trip despite Soho-hum script

Exclusive to MeierMovies, November 19, 2021

A few nights ago, around 4 a.m., I awoke with a start. Sitting up in bed, I observed my surroundings: bedside table, television, desk. They were all familiar. And why shouldn’t they be? They were the objects I had awoken to for more than a decade.

Leaving my bedroom and walking down the hall to the living room, I felt a sense of comfort, as if I were floating above the slightly worn carpet I’d trodden on innumerable times. I was home.

Only trouble is: I’d moved from this apartment 15 years ago – and I was still asleep, in my current home. I was astral-projecting.

In real life, of course, astral projection is probably just a fancier term for lucid dreaming, unless you are inclined to mysticism or a follower of Theosophy (which I once was). But in movies, astral projection can be real. And I’ve rarely been affected by it more viscerally than I was when watching Last Night in Soho, the new psychological thriller by writer-director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver), especially when said projection is accompanied by time travel – to 1960s London, no less.

Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit, Leave No Trace) plays the wide-eyed Ellie, a student headed from country Cornwall to lively London to fulfill her dream of becoming a fashion designer. But she veers off her career path when she moves from her noisy dorm to a quiet “bedsit” owned by a seemingly understanding, if strict, landlady (the legendary Diana Rigg, in her final role). Initially feeling at home in her new digs, Ellie’s life is upended by lucid dreams of the 1960s (the decade she loves). It’s in these dreams (or aforementioned projections) that Ellie meets (or becomes) Sandie, played by the luminous Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split). And in her waking hours, in a subplot that is only partially successful, she befriends a fellow student (Michael Ajao) who eventually becomes her chief confidante.

Adding depth to the story is Ellie’s own past, which hints at mental instability and harks back to Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, about similar madness overwhelming a similarly beautiful blonde (Catherine Deneuve) in a similarly claustrophobic 1960s London. Throw in a dash of prostitution, sprinkles of murder and irresistible (and very British) appearances from Terence Stamp, Matt Smith and Margaret Nolan (also in her last role), and you have a film that’s almost script-proof. (Turns out the movie will need that proofing, but more on that later.)

McKenzie and Taylor-Joy might be the sexiest female pairing since Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive or, delving even deeper, Claudia Cardinale and Brigitte Bardot in Les Pétroleuses (The Petroleum Girls). Unlike those other couples, there’s no physical sexuality between McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, yet the two have an undeniable chemistry and, despite facial differences, end up resembling each other, at least in this critic’s mind’s eye. It doesn’t matter that it all makes little sense. (The other two films didn’t either.) For this is a fever dream, and a fun one at that.

Sadly, Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns do almost everything they can to spoil that dream toward the end, leaping from one climax (a nice twist) to an action ending, to an even more over-the-top horror finale, to, finally, a sappy wrap-up. Speaking of over the top, Wilson-Cairns wrote the script for Sam Mendes’ 1917. But she also wrote for the TV show Penny Dreadful. Combine the pulpy sensibility of the latter with the otherworldliness of the former, throw in a bit of Wright’s sophomoric playfulness, and you arrive at Last Night.

As for me, maybe I’ll astral-project again this night. And maybe it’ll be to someplace sexier than my old apartment. If I do, I hope McKenzie and Taylor-Joy are there, along with Last Night’s art direction, cinematography and wonderful music. But if my dream, like the film, trends ridiculous, I’ll force myself awake.

© 2021 MeierMovies, LLC

For more information on the movie, visit IMDB and Wikipedia.