FILMS… Last Night in Soho (2021)

#2010s #AllPosts


How can I lose, going Downtown to a time “where the neon signs are pretty”…


A young naive first year fashion student discovers that the nostalgic allure of 1960s London hides a more tragic tale of shattered dreams and promises.



Let’s travel back in time with an Edgar Wright directed British neo-noir film. Last Night in Soho (2021). This is for the most part, set in the then present day of the early 2020s and tells of a young aspiring fashion designer, Ellie Turner. Ellie is seen in a captivating opening scene, oblivious to the 2020s world around her and dances in a carefree way in a newspaper made 1960s dress to the opening song on the soundtrack, A World Without Love.

It’s more than apparent our protagonist has a strong love of all things the 1960s. You can tell from her bedroom adorned with 1960s movie posters, her music collection, her hairstyle and belongings and that gorgeous frock design. Ellie is a shy and timid young lady, whose mother committed suicide due to mental health problems when Ellie was a wee girl. She never knew her father and still sees visions of her mother (Aimee Cassettari) in a mirror. Ellie was then brought up by her maternal grandmother, Peggy (Rita Tushingham).

Ellie gets super excited after she is accepted to study at a prestigious British fashion college in London, and it is her lifelong dream come true. Her grandmother is worried that moving to London may be stressful for Eloise – as it was for Ellie’s mother, also a fashion designer – and she warns her granddaughter that men may have the worst of intentions. Ellie feels she will be able to take care of herself and she reassures her gran.

It seems another worry for Peggy is Ellie’s gift where she “feels things, sees things”. These “visions” include Ellie’s mother who passed away. Peggy is worried her granddaughter will become overwhelmed with these kinds of experiences, as she was once before. Ellie then moves to the big capital, London from the countryside. On arriving in London, Ellie seems initially taken in by the glamour of this capital city…

She experiences the more seamy and seedier side of London soon after. This is with a creepy middle-aged taxi driver making lewd comments and an unwanted pass at Ellie. Ellie moves into a shared room with another student, Jocanta (Synnove Karlsen) in the student residences. Later, Ellie moves out of the student residence – partly due to this bitchy and attention seeking roommate and her vacant cronies – after her attention is drawn to an advert that literally falls at her feet at college… (and on a first view of this film, some might call this coincidence).

Ellie answers the advert and rents a small Soho, retro-decorated bedsit from the elderly Miss Collins (Diana Rigg). There’s a no men rule after 8 in the evening, and a smell due to the drains at times but it’s otherwise perfect. Immediately after Ellie falls asleep in her new bedroom, with the flashing lights of Soho transfixing her, she has a dream that she has returned back in time to the 1960s after walking down a small alleyway.

In this vivid dream, Ellie – as Sandie – is drawn to visit a London nightclub. Ellie notices through the mirrors that she has become the pretty blonde, confident and stylish, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who is seeking a job as a nightclub singer. Sandie then brazenly asks for a job from the young handsome manager Jack (Matt Smith). After Ellie dances with him, he gallantly saves her from some unwanted male attention. Sandie and Jack begin to kiss passionately and Sandie falls in love as this man promises to help her in her singing career, and becomes her manager.

After waking up, Ellie is back in the present day. Ellie is inspired to dye her dark hair blonde and designs a frock inspired by Sandie’s fashions at college. She finds a love bite on her neck where Jack kissed her – as Sandie – after it is pointed out by a sneering Jocasta. Ellie makes friends with a fellow student, John (Michael Ajao) but turns down his date as she then becomes obsessed to return her ongoing dreams with Sandie.

Ellie takes a job in a pub, buys Sandie-inspired clothes and orders Sandie’s favourite drink. These actions lead to Ellie getting attention from a pub regular, an elderly man (Terence Stamp). She learns after talking to him, that he believes he once knew someone in the 1960s, who was like Sandie but named Alex.

In her dreams about Sandie, it appears Sandie lived in the bedsit that Ellie is renting. In one dream as Ellie witnesses Sandie’s life, the darker side of London in this decade is seen. Sandie’s (and Ellie’s) dream shatters, after a successful singing audition organised by Jack. Ellie sees Sandie gets a job as a backing dancer and singer to a singing act in a men’s club where many of the dancers are unhappy or paired off with businessmen for illicit purposes.

Ellie witnesses Jack introduce a now unhappy, Sandie to a businessman. Jack forces her to sleep with him for money, this is against Sandie’s wishes and she is devastated. In a montage, where Ellie feels and sees this woman’s pain in this new “vocation” as she meets many men… However, one man is different from the others and warns her to get out of this work while she can.

Then visions of Jack and these men then torment and haunt the now increasingly nervy Ellie, and she now is terrified of going to sleep… This is particularly after a Halloween party where she accepts a drink from Jocasta. Ellie is initially carefree and then sees visions of Sandie with Jack, and these visions continue. She can’t block these out after she and John kiss and go back to her room, where she becomes hysterical.

The commotion above her room concerns Miss Collins who checks in on her lodger. She believes that John attacked her and orders him to leave. It’s seen that a mirror is broken…and Ellie then witnesses Jack threaten Sandie with a knife at her throat…  she wakes up after seeing this scene, Ellie now believes the elderly man from the pub is Jack and goes to the police.

Last Night in Soho is a fabulous example of a British neo-noir where Ellie’s dream-like fantasy has our protagonist seeing and feeling things as Sandy. Ellie’s dreams then show her strongly empathetic for Sandie’s then life. She sees and feels Sandie’s experiences in London, and this is amplified after Ellie witnesses her presumed death at the hands of Jack. After this Ellie sees these men and Jack as visions in real life, and these experiences echo her gift.

After the elderly man confirms there was an Alex who meets Sandie’s description, she asks her landlady about Sandie, and Miss Collins tells her London is full of such stories. After Ellie tells the police about these visions, she has her interviewers more concerned about her drug taking, mental health and lack of support.

Ellie’s 1960s encounters also show her gift for seeing things in a positive way, these scenes have a strong visual style with Edgar Wright’s nostalgic love letter to the glamour of sights, sounds, looks and feel of the sixties. These captivating scenes are reminiscent of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Like Quentin Tarantino, both directors and plots share so many wonderful remembrances of the late 1960s from Tarantino’s Hollywood landmarks to Wright’s huge hypnotic cinema posters of Bond films.

Like Tarantino, these first appearances lure you into this time. This is before introducing the darker side of life, where the glitz and glamour are a front to sadder stories. Tarantino writes the Manson Family into his plot, and Wright’s film shows that Sandie’s career and her life become unhappy and not the life she wanted. This after falling in with an evil man with unscrupulous motives and his now broken promises.

Like this film, the cinema-size film posters, fashions and hairstyles she sees in those bright neon lights of 1960s London, echo Ellie’s nostalgic-themed bedrooms. Then as Ellie’s actions in her dreams put her literally and visually in Sandie’s shoes, with her gift of seeing and feeling her experiences. This is implied after she finds the lovebite and her vivid dreams.

As the scenes show a darker look at the now often-forgotten seedier side of this time and place showing Sandie is not alone in her broken dreams. This plot was based on the director Wright’s perceptions of London where he had loved the music and was later disillusioned after his mother told him about a more sordid story from this decade.

A more rounded version of the 1960s reality blurs with the present for Ellie, components of the plot add up to a British neo-noir. The neo-noir plot is amplified as we are conscious that Ellie may have previously had mental health problems – and therefore may be an unreliable narrator – as her current life is blurred with her visions. She aims to help Sandie, by bringing “Jack” to justice and she tries to find more out about the murder of Sandie by looking through old newspapers at the college library where she is haunted by terrifying visions.

Ellie becomes increasingly stressed and disturbed as she sees these visions of the threatening faceless male businessmen Sandie was forced to be with. These men, Sandie and Jack haunt Ellie night and day. As Ellie identifies, emphasises with and supports Sandie, and Sandie’s story of a life of glamour that she hoped for, then as her life is forced into one she doesn’t want… this is echoed in the soundtrack which once welcoming to the 1960s as we go literally Downtown with Petula Clark and more the chirpier tracks of this time, like the plot, tells of different tunes…


Weeper Rating😦 😦😦😦😦 😦 😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10

Hulk Rating:  0 /10


Cinema Shame 2023, March

This post was added as my June entry for Cinema Shame 2023. Other films with this cast include Matt Smith in The Crown and Doctor Who. Diana Rigg is in Doctor Who, Theatre of Blood and is remembered HERE in many of her films and TV. Terence Stamp stars in Superman, Wall Street and Superman II. Rita Tushingham stars in Doctor Zhivago. Pauline McLynn in EastEnders. Margaret Nolan in The Sweeney and Carry on Henry.






11 thoughts on “FILMS… Last Night in Soho (2021)

  1. Like Shadows and Satin (above) this doesn’t sound like something I would like. I don’t know though, I’m always happy to be pleasantly surprised, so I’ll look out for this one in the listings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good review, Gill!
    I was slowly drawn into this film and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! It was very shocking to see Matt Smith play a character very opposite from doctor who!

    Liked by 1 person

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