Wallflower Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) finds it hard to adjust to dorm life when she moves to from the countryside to London to attend the London College of Fashion as she has always dreamed of. Moving into a small flat, she soon starts having dreams of 1960s London, a time period she is drawing much of her design inspiration from. In her dreams, Ellie sees herself as Sandie (Ana Taylor-Joy), a tall blond sexually confident woman who knows what she wants and how to get it, everything that Eloise is afraid she isn’t.
But as Ellie’s dreams continue, they take a dark turn when Sandie meets Jack (Matt Smith), a self-proclaimed talent manager who has far different plans for Sandie than what he tells her. Eloise lowly suspects that what she is experiencing are not dreams, but visions of the past, and begins to search for information as to who Sandie may actually be.
There is no doubt that Wright loves genre and there is always a sense of fun and joy in his films that reflect that. Here, he is plumbing such 1960s swinging mod London movies such as The Pleasure Girls and Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush for a starting point before heading towards the dark underbelly of the city via Blowup and Alfie before landing in the psychological suspense genre. Through that blending, Wright manages to create a world that feels grounded while we are with Eloise in the modern world and a cinematic phantasmagoria while initially in Sandie’s 1960s London.
Much like the era itself, Last Night In Soho is meticulously stylized in terms of production design and cinematography. Wright’s camera glides and moves around iconic 1960s London locations such as the Cafe de Paris nightclub, replicating the unique energy of that zeitgeist moment and place in pop culture history. It is infectious and shows us the allure that Eloise sees in the time period. And of course, Wright’s penchant for accentuating his films with just the right choice of pop music serves him well here, as every choice fits the era while also offering some comment or ironic counterpoint on the scene it is being used.
But all of this is not just style for style’s sake. So much of what we see offers clues as to what is to come. When Ellie arrives in London, she is told the city “is still the same old London underneath,” a hint as to the underworld she will soon find herself thrust into in her dreams. The dress with the big bow that Sandie wears when Jack introduces her to a number of allegedly powerful men in the entertainment presages him making a sexual present of her to them. There are layers here that suggest new rewards with repeated viewings.