|Last Night in Soho|
|Directed by||Edgar Wright|
|Story by||Edgar Wright|
|Edited by||Paul Machliss|
|Music by||Steven Price|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$21.2 million|
Last Night in Soho is a 2021 British psychological horror film directed and co-written by Edgar Wright. The film stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp and Diana Rigg. It marks the final film appearances of Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who both died in 2020. The film is dedicated to the memory of Rigg.
Last Night in Soho premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2021, had its UK premiere on 9 October 2021 at the BFI London Film Festival and was theatrically released in the UK and the US on 29 October 2021 by Universal Pictures and Focus Features, respectively. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised the production design, cinematography, costume design and the performances, while the writing received some criticism.
Eloise "Ellie" Turner loves the music and fashion of the Swinging Sixties and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mother, also a designer, killed herself during Ellie's childhood. Ellie occasionally sees her mother's ghost in mirrors.
Ellie moves from her rural home near Redruth, Cornwall to London, in order to study at the London College of Fashion, where she has trouble fitting in with her peers, particularly her snobbish roommate Jocasta. Only John, another student, is sympathetic to her. Unhappy in the hall of residence, Ellie moves into a bedsit owned by the elderly Ms. Collins.
That night, Ellie has a vivid dream in which she is transported back in time to the 1960s. At the Café de Paris, she observes a confident young blonde woman, Sandie, inquire about becoming a singer at the club. Sandie begins a relationship with the charming teddy boy manager, Jack. The next morning, Ellie designs a dress inspired by Sandie and discovers a love bite on her neck.
Ellie has another dream in which Sandie successfully auditions at a Soho nightclub, arranged by Jack, before returning to the same bedsit that Ellie has rented. Inspired by these visions, Ellie dyes her hair blonde, changes her fashion style to match Sandie's, uses her as an inspiration for her dress designs and gets a job at a pub. She is observed by a silver-haired man, who recognises her similarities to Sandie. In further dreams, Ellie discovers Sandie is not living the life she had hoped for, and Jack begins to pimp Sandie to his male business associates.
In her waking life, Ellie is disturbed by increasingly menacing apparitions that resemble Jack and the men who abused Sandie. She flees a Halloween party she attends with John after the spirits accost her there. John returns with her to her bedsit, where she has a vision of Jack murdering Sandie. Ellie decides to track down the silver-haired man, who she believes is Jack. She goes to the police, but she is not taken seriously.
Ellie attempts to find newspaper reports about Sandie's murder in the university library but is unsuccessful, instead finding stories of local men who vanished without a trace. The spirits again manifest, and she nearly stabs Jocasta in a panic. Believing she must avenge Sandie, Ellie confronts the silver-haired man, who frequents the pub where she works. He angrily denies killing Sandie but is struck by a taxi and killed while leaving the pub. The pub landlady reveals the man's name to be Lindsay, and Ellie recalls encountering him in her dreams; he was an undercover vice officer who tried to help Sandie escape her life of prostitution.
Devastated, Ellie decides to leave London and John drives her back to Ms. Collins' house. She informs Ms. Collins that she is leaving. Ms. Collins tells her that a detective came by asking about Sandie's murder before revealing that she is actually Sandie. She explains that Ellie's prior vision of Sandie's death was in fact a vision of Sandie killing Jack when he threatened her with a knife. She then lured the men she was pimped to back to her room and killed them, hiding their bodies in the house's floorboards and walls. Ms. Collins also reveals she drugged Ellie's tea and intends to kill her to ensure her silence.
In the scuffle, a cigarette from Ms. Collins' ashtray ignites a box of records. John comes to Ellie's aid but Ms. Collins stabs him. Ellie flees to her room, where the spirits of Sandie's victims beg Ellie to kill Ms. Collins, but she refuses. Ms. Collins enters Ellie's room, where she too sees the spirits and is slapped by the ghost of Jack. With the police outside, she attempts to slit her own throat but is stopped by Ellie, who tells her she understands why she killed the men. Ms. Collins, as Sandie, tells Ellie to save herself and John from the growing fire. Sandie stays in the building as it burns.
Some time later, Ellie enjoys success as her dresses are showcased at a fashion show. She is congratulated backstage by her grandmother and John, now her boyfriend. Ellie sees her mother's spirit in a mirror and then a vision of Sandie, who waves at her and blows her a kiss.
Edgar Wright first conceived of the idea for Last Night in Soho in 2007. He pitched the plot, describing it as a "dark Valentine" to London and the Soho neighbourhood, to the producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior before the start of filming for The World's End (2013).
Growing up in Somerset, Wright listened to his parents' stories of coming of age in the 1960s, which contributed to him becoming enamoured with the era. He nurtured his obsession through their 1960s record collection, saying he would "sort of almost just disappear into that decade through the music". But Wright recalls that his mother's recollections of Swinging Sixties London were not always fond memories, recalling her story "I went to Soho once with my friend and we got harassed by a man and chased out. And that's the end of the story."
Wright's own obsession with 1960s London helped shape the themes of Last Night in Soho. "Something that I find truly nightmarish — and I guess there's an element where I'm sort of giving a sharp rebuke to myself — is the danger of being overly nostalgic about previous decades. In a way, the film is about romanticizing the past and why it's ... wrong to do that."
British films of the 1960s were also a source of inspiration for Wright, saying "A lot of films of that period are about the darker side of Soho or of show business. You still have to question where they're coming from, because there's a lot of them, which are more the sensationalistic ones, that take this kind of punitive approach to the female characters. There's a lot of movies where it seems that the genre is 'Girl comes to London to make it big and is roundly punished for her efforts.'"
Filmmaker Sam Mendes first introduced Wright to screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who would later co-write 1917 (2019) with Mendes. Wilson-Cairns mentioned to Wright in passing that she had worked as a bartender at The Toucan in Soho for five years and lived around the corner, above The Sunset Strip on Dean Street. On the night of the Brexit vote in 2016, the pair went on a bar crawl together through the basement bars of Soho, ending up at a bar called Trisha's, where Wright pitched her the story of Last Night In Soho.
In December 2017, after the press tour for Baby Driver had concluded, Wright felt pressure to begin working on a sequel immediately, but decided instead to go in "a radically different direction" for his next film. He phoned Wilson-Cairns and asked if she wanted to co-write the screenplay for Last Night In Soho with him. The two rented an office in Soho to work on the script, consulting a folder of research that had been collected by Lucy Pardee. Pardee, a BAFTA Award-winning casting director but also a researcher, conducted interviews with people who had lived and worked in Soho in the 1960s and present day. Wright wanted to be "true to the history of the area".
Wright and Wilson-Cairns wrote the first draft of the script in six weeks, before she had to leave to begin work on 1917 with Mendes. Originally, Wright wanted the 1960s scenes to have no dialogue or only be accompanied by music "that they should be like dreams". Wilson-Cairns suggested the character of Sandie have dialogue, saying "We have to fall in love with Sandie. And I think it's difficult to fall in love with Sandie if she doesn't say anything." It was also Wilson-Cairns who proposed the idea of having a scene in which Sandie auditions at a Soho nightclub called the Rialto. As soon as she suggested it, Wright knew immediately that Sandie should sing Petula Clark's "Downtown".
Last Night in Soho was originally titled Red Light Area and then The Night Has a Thousand Eyes. The title originates from a 1968 hit single by the English pop band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich and a conversation Wright had with the filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who was told by Allison Anders that Last Night in Soho was the "best title music for a film that's never been made".
Wright became aware of Anya Taylor-Joy when he served as a member of the US Dramatic Jury at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where The Witch premiered. He met Taylor-Joy in Los Angeles shortly afterward, at which point he pitched her the story for Last Night in Soho. He initially had Taylor-Joy in mind for the role of Eloise but later came around to the idea of her playing Sandie, and she agreed after reading a draft of the script. Taylor-Joy's casting was announced in February 2019. Thomasin McKenzie and Matt Smith were cast shortly thereafter. McKenzie got Wright's attention with what he described as her naturalistic performance in the film Leave No Trace (2018).
Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham, Michael Ajao and Synnøve Karlsen rounded out the rest of the cast in June. Rigg died shortly after production ended, making Last Night in Soho her last film role. Wright said that he was filming with Rigg "right up until the end", describing working with her as "a beautiful experience". It is also the last film appearance of Margaret Nolan, who died in October 2020.
Filming began on 23 May 2019 and was completed on 30 August 2019. Wright posted several photographs on his Instagram account showing that additional filming had commenced on 24 June 2020 and concluded on 5 August 2020.
Some of the songs inspired sequences in the film. When Wright heard a cover version of "Wade In The Water" by the Graham Bond Organisation, he "would just start imagining that first dream". Cilla Black's "You're My World" with its dramatic strings conjured up "the sort of the tone and the mood". Most of the songs selected were from the 1960s. Wright also chose "Happy House" by Siouxsie and the Banshees from the 1980s, because "the production on that song is incredible" and it fits a "scene in the movie where they are at a student union Halloween dance". Wright also said "I like songs that become famous in a different realm. Like we use "Got My Mind Set on You" the original by James Ray, which most people know as the George Harrison cover. And a lot of people know "Happy House" because the Weeknd sampled it." Taylor-Joy performed "Downtown" by Petula Clark in the film, saying "It's not every day you're asked to record several versions of an iconic song. The sounds of the '60s was what first made me fall in love with music so I was overjoyed when Edgar asked me to give it a go". The soundtrack was released on double vinyl.
|Last Night in Soho (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by |
|1.||"A World Without Love"||Peter & Gordon||2:41|
|2.||"Wishin' and Hopin'"||Dusty Springfield||2:54|
|3.||"Don't Throw Your Love Away"||The Searchers||2:16|
|4.||"Beat Girl"||The John Barry Orchestra||1:47|
|6.||"You're My World"||Cilla Black||2:59|
|7.||"Wade in the Water (Live at Klooks Kleek)"||The Graham Bond Organisation||2:47|
|8.||"Got My Mind Set on You"||James Ray||3:27|
|9.||"(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"||The Who||1:58|
|10.||"Puppet on a String"||Sandie Shaw||2:22|
|11.||"Land of 1000 Dances"||The Walker Brothers||2:35|
|12.||"There's a Ghost in My House"||R. Dean Taylor||2:23|
|13.||"Happy House"||Siouxsie and the Banshees||3:50|
|14.||"(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me"||Sandie Shaw||2:44|
|16.||"Anyone Who Had a Heart"||Cilla Black||2:50|
|17.||"Last Night in Soho"||Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich||3:17|
|19.||"Downtown (A Capella) "||Anya Taylor-Joy||1:19|
|20.||"Downtown (Uptempo) "||Anya Taylor-Joy||3:29|
|21.||"You’re My World "||Anya Taylor-Joy||3:03|
original score track
Last Night in Soho had its world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2021. It also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2021 and at the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival on 10 September 2021. It had its UK premiere on 9 October 2021 at the BFI London Film Festival, prior to its general release in the UK on 29 October 2021. It was originally scheduled to be released on 25 September 2020, but was delayed to 23 April 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, before being delayed again to 22 October, then again to the following weekend.
In the United States and Canada, Last Night in Soho was released alongside Antlers and the expansion of The French Dispatch, and was projected to gross around $5 million from 3,016 cinemas in its opening weekend. The film made $1.9 million on its first day and went on to debut to $4.2 million, finishing sixth at the box office. In its second weekend it dropped 57% to gross $1.8 million, finishing tenth.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes sampled 296 critics and judged 75% of the reviews to be positive, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The site states "Although it struggles to maintain its thrilling early momentum, Last Night in Soho shows flashes of Edgar Wright at his most stylish and ambitious." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 65 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it a 73% positive score, with 56% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph gave the film a score of 4/5 stars, describing it as "a riotous, rascally hybrid of a thing: part glittering love-letter to the disreputable nightlife district in which it takes place, part darting psychological thriller that rips up the letter as soon as it's written before tearfully torching the scraps". He also praised the cinematography and the "spellbinding recreation of the West End of the '60s". Reviewing for The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern also praised the cinematography, writing "And how gorgeous it is. The cinematographer, Chung-hoon Chung, should have been given star billing too". Xan Brooks of The Guardian gave the film 4/5 stars, describing it as "a gaudy time-travel romp that whisks its modern-day heroine to a bygone London that probably never existed outside our fevered cultural imagination", and called it "thoroughly silly and stupidly enjoyable". David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as "immensely pleasurable" and said that it "delights in playing with genre, morphing from time-travel fantasy to dark fairy tale, from mystery to nightmarish horror". Rooney also praised the film's sets, costume design and McKenzie's performance, describing her as "enchanting". Linda Marric of The Jewish Chronicle gave the film 4/5 stars, deeming it "a thrilling, gorgeously acted offering from a filmmaker who is at the top of his craft and knows exactly what he wants from his performers". Tom Shone, writing for The Times, criticised the writing, saying there were "one too many jump scares involving a cab screeching to a halt, and two too many scenes of Eloise sitting up in bed and realising it-was-just-a-dream", although he considers that Taylor-Joy's performance "shines". Morgenstern also highlights Taylor-Joy, saying she acts "with a dazzling sense of purpose". Writing for Variety, Guy Lodge criticised aspects of the film, observing "Wright's particular affections for B-movies, British Invasion pop and a fast-fading pocket of urban London may be written all over the film, but they aren't compellingly written into it, ultimately swamping the thin supernatural sleuth story at its heart". Lodge praised McKenzie's performance, describing her as "never one to let an underwritten character thwart her best efforts, and whose sweetly open, porous, persistently worry-etched features couldn't be more ideally suited to Eloise's ingenuous, new-in-town outlook". Jake Coyle of Associated Press also praises McKenzie and Taylor-Joy performance, writing "While neither of their character's gets enough depth, McKenzie and Taylor-Joy sustain Last Night in Soho, a movie filled with reflections to both past fiction horrors ... and today's #MeToo terrors
Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail gave the film a score of 2.5/4 stars, writing "Though visually sumptuous and a bunch of fun early on, Edgar Wright's take on sixties and seventies horror eventually devolves into unsatisfying spoof." Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair was more critical of the film, describing it as a "clumsy horror pastiche" and writing "Perhaps the film's thematic intentions are noble. But its execution is glib, never finding the right balance between compassion and leering." Robert Daniels of RogerEbert.com gave the film a score of 1.5/4 stars, writing that it "is funny and chaotic, slick and stylish, and falls apart in its confounding second half". David Sims of The Atlantic wrote "While Wright remains exceptionally gifted at mashing up genres to create moments of real cinematic lightning, by and large, Last Night in Soho is all flash, no impact." The review by Radhika Seth for Vogue focused on the costume design, which Seth called "sensational, not to mention crucial to the narrative". Rosalind Jana, writing in The Daily Telegraph, also praised the costume design and its importance to the plot, and concluded that "the storytelling becomes overly heavy handed, but the costumes never falter". The film's production design was praised by some critics, including by Yasmin Omar for Harper's Bazaar, who found it "tremendous"; Jaden S. Thompson, writing in The Harvard Crimson thought the design was "sleek, saturated".
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