Last Night in Soho (2021) isn't a bad film but it's certainly one of Edgar Wright's weakest movies. Like a lot of Wright's work, the first two acts are great before things start to completely fall apart, which is this case is a bit of a shame as I really liked the underlying ideas he has going but his execution in the finale undermines the story.
The film follows Eloise (Thomason Mackenzie) who is accepted to a fashion school in London but when she arrives she finds things in London to be stressful, with strange men leering at her and her classmates ostracizing her. She ends up living in a vacant loft of Ms Collins's (Diana Rigg) house, where she begins dreaming about being a beautiful woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who wants to be a singer in 1960s London, and who falls in love with a dashing recruiter named Jack (Matt Smith) who scores her her first gig. These visions inspire Eloise to design 60s style dresses and even change her hair and wardrobe to be morel like Sandie's. But Eloise soon learns that what she's seeing is much darker
It's a beautiful film, with a lot of dizzying visual effects work, particularly in how they body swap Mackenzie and Taylor-Joy in scenes to represent Eloise seeing things from Sandie's perspective. And as things get darker there are some genuine scares and frightening ghosts. And the principal cast is excellent, especially between Taylor-Joy and Smith, who are clearly having a lot of fun.
Things start to fall apart in the third act, though, as a series of twists kind of brings the narrative down around it. ⇳ Click to Expand Summary
Eloise is actually a medium who can see ghosts, and is watching a haunting of the past. It turns out that Jack didn't actually help Sandie, but is instead a pimp who trafficked her into a brother, even beating and drugging her to keep her there.
In the real world, Eloise soon the draws the attention of an elderly man at a pub who identifiers her and even comments on how she looks like Sandie. As Eloise watches more of these visions, she soon witnesses Jack hold down and brutally stab Sandie to death, and fears the man following her in real life might be Jack. She initially tells the police who express disbelief, and then confronts the man in the pub. But after the confrontation, she drives him out of the pub and he's hit by a car and killed. It's then revealed that the man was named Lindsey and was actually an undercover cop who worked vice in Soho.
Eloise prepares to leave and goes to tell Ms. Collins, who reveals she was visited by police and that actually she is Sandie. What really happened was during the struggle she wrestled the knife away from Jack and stabbed him. She then went on to lure to the apartment and kill over a dozen johns before going into hiding. The ghosts and visions Eloise had been seeing were actually the men Sandie killed. Sandie then reveals that she's poisoned Eloise's tea.
Eloise is able to escape Sandie, though, and explains that she understands what she went through, causing Sandie to let Eloise go as she stays in a burning building
And I really like the idea of it being revealed that Sandie killed Jack and then went on to kill the johns. The main problem, though, is that both the narrative has to straight up lie to viewer to make this twist work, and it ends up cramming these reveals into about 15 minutes. As she tells the story about how she overpowered him and took the knife to kill him, the camera zooms in and the soundtrack starts with the horror beats, except in this case she is completely justified in killing her attacker. And the johns she murders were shown to have raped her while she was drugged unconscious.
Eloise does express compassion for Sandie and that wraps up the narrative, but the whole thing doesn't get nearly enough time to really explore those parts of the themes. Turning her into a horror movie villain at the end then having her stop as she reflects "Did young me really come her to be a serial murder?" in like 10 minutes does not do that material justice.
There's also the reveal about the old man being the undercover cop doesn't work out because initially he acts nothing like Matt Smith but does act exactly like the undecover cop we get for only one scene. And for that matter, it's a mystery why he approaches her and acts the way he does. He's acting aggressive and creepy and mentioning Sandie to her, but... why? There's not enough about the character to understand why he's acting the way he is, other than to be an intentional red herring to make it seem like Jack is stalking her in the present.
A lot is done to mislead the viewer into thinking Jack is the primary villain and it just makes what's going on make less sense. Initially it seems like what we're seeing is a dream. But it soon turns into a haunting, a byproduct of Eloise's gift of site. Except, at one point she very clearly sees a vision of Jack murder Sandie. Which is then revealed to be false but like how. Did the ghosts lie to her? Why did the ghosts lie? Was Sandie the one causing the visions? Did she do this to murder Eloise? Had she done it before, because early in the film she mentions other girls staying there as "disappearing in the night." But if that's the case, none of that is in the movie
Anyway, that's a lot about what is a really fun movie. There's a lot to love about it, the performances and production are great. I just wish we had a movie that actually dove a bit deeper into the ending