The 2021 film Last Night in Soho has been on my “must watch” list since I saw the trailer.
Having missed seeing the film in cinemas, I’ve been very eager to see it for the longest time.
I’m happy to say that I have crossed the film off my “must see” list at last, however I must admit that I did not adore this film the way I thought it would.
If you’ve read my previous film discussions on Katelovesliterature.com then you’ll know that usually I follow a certain formula. I discuss the plot, the setting, the themes, and the structure of a film. I’m changing things up and I’m going to discuss this film in a less formulaic way.
Edgar Wright directed Last Night in Soho. Wright being the film’s director was a big reason as to why I was so eager to see this film. I’m a fan of Wright’s style of directing. I would say that a technique that makes his directing style quite notable is his use of rather jarring cuts. When reading about Wright and the way he directs films, another notable feature of his directing style that gets mentioned often is when editing, Wright is very creative when it comes to transitions.
Both of these things are very clear in Last Night in Soho.
Another film that I love that was directed by Wright is Hot Fuzz. You can read my discussion about this film if you click the link below.
I love films that follow through. What I mean by this, is that I love when a film sets up an idea and follows through with it. This is something that I discuss in more detail in my discussion about Die Hard, which you can also read by clicking on the link below. https://katelovesliterature.com/2021/12/06/die-hard-yes-its-a-chri
These are two films that I love because every single thing that takes place in these two films happens for a reason. Every single idea that has been set up at the beginning comes full circle by the end of the film.
I think that Edgar Wright is quite a meticulous director. He pays attention to details. This is really noticeable when you watch Hot Fuzz. Every time I watch Hot Fuzz I catch another little detail. He lays the foundation and then he follows through. Nothing happens just because. Everything has a purpose. This is why I thought I would absolutely love Last Night in Soho. I expected the same level of acute attention to detail and unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed because I felt that the film started off so strong but became messy as it went on. I will elaborate on this point further along in this discussion.
I have to be fair and more importantly, I have to be honest. I did really enjoy this film, in fact I would even say that I loved it. If you follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature then you will have seen that my immediate initial reaction to this film was that I really enjoyed it.
I shared on my Instagram stories that I would give it 10/10, that I loved the cast, that I loved the directing style. I said that I particularly loved the use of lighting in the film. I loved the music in the film, and all of these things are still true, however upon further reflection and taking more time to think about the film, there are things that I felt fell apart once you spend more than five minutes thinking about them. If I was to summarise my thoughts I would say “brilliant concept, messy execution.”
Let me explain. Before I talk about the things I didn’t love, let’s discuss the plot because I really did like the idea of this film. I thought it was a really creative and intriguing premise.
If you have not already seen this film, please be aware that this discussion will contain spoilers.
The film follows aspiring fashion designer Ellie as she moves from Cornwall to London to study at the London College of Fashion. Ellie, who is massively inspired by the music and fashion of the sixties, struggles to adapt to the bustling London life as it is so different to her sheltered, rural upbringing with her Nan. Ellie’s mother died when she was a young girl and Ellie can still see her in mirrors. This is the first sign that this movie will contain some supernatural elements.
Ellie does not feel comfortable staying in the college dorms as she is struggling to make friends, so she decides to move to a women’s only bedsit that is owned by a woman named Mrs Collins.
Ellie feels much more comfortable in this bedsit and while living there, she has a series of dreams that transport her back to the 60s. In her dreams, she observes a glamorous, confident, aspiring singer named Sandie. At first, Ellie is excited by Sandie’s life and she uses these dreams about Sandie to inspire her own fashion and her work in school. She dyes her hair blonde to match Sandie’s and in class, she starts designing the dress that Sandie is wearing in her dreams. This new confidence that Sandie has inspired impresses Ellie’s teachers and makes other classmates jealous. However all is not as glamorous as it appears because as each night passes, Ellie’s dreams about Sandie become more and more disturbing. Sandie is not living the high life of a singer in fancy bars, instead she is being mercilessly pimped out by her manager/boyfriend Jack. The man who had promised her stardom and success is pimping her out to his business associates. The dreams that once had Ellie rushing to go to sleep have quickly become inescapable nightmares. Ellie wants to avoid sleep, but the figures of her dreams start to haunt her daily life. Ellie gets more and more afraid as the movie goes on because she keeps seeing disturbing visions of Jack, and the other men who misused Sandie.
The disturbing dreams take a turn for the worst when Ellie dreams about Jack murdering Sandie.
Ellie becomes obsessed with the idea that she must avenge Sandie’s death in order to escape these dreams and be able to sleep. This idea consumes her and she begins looking up newspaper articles about the murder and she attempts to track down Jack to confront him.
I want to pause here before I discuss the film’s twist because I want to talk about what I had hoped this plot would be. Based on the trailer, I thought that this film would be about Ellie trying to solve Sandie’s murder. I was fascinated by the idea of a young girl being plagued with dreams about a cold case and naturally, the only way to get the dreams to stop is to get justice for Sandie and solve her murder because the impression that the beginning of this film gives is that Jack got away with it. This idea is fuelled by the ominous appearings of an old man. Ellie gets a job in a pub, and an old man who we don’t know the name of frequents this pub. This unnamed man has a few odd conversations with Ellie, particularly after she dyes her hair blonde. The film very much gives audiences the impression that this old man is Jack. He seems to recognise Ellie, but only because her newly blonde hair reminds him of Sandie. He’s a strange character.
He is a red herring and I will elaborate more on this point as I go on but first I want to mention one other direction that I thought this film would go in.
I mentioned in a point above that I would summarise this discussion by saying “brilliant concept, messy execution”, and now I am going to give an example of this. I also felt that this movie didn’t follow through with certain ideas and this point is also an example of that.
Ellie’s first dream about the 60s is a glamorous one. She is in a bar in Soho. London is bustling.
One point I will make is that despite all of its flaws, this film is beautifully crafted. There are some absolutely stunning visuals and the vibe of London in the 60s was captured in such an electric way onscreen.
In her first dream, Ellie watches Sandie check her reflection in the mirror before entering the bar. She is determined to figure out a way to become a singer. She is going to be the next Cilla Black. Sandie is flirty, confident, and slick. She’s a force to be watched, she draws you in. She is directed by the bartender to speak to Jack. She’s told he’s Cilla’s manager. Sandie introduces herself to Jack and he is clearly quite taken with her. The couple dance together and this is a brilliant scene.
I have to give credit to Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith. The pair are fabulous as Jack and Sandie. They are slick, they are sexy, they have brilliant chemistry and they capture that electric, swinging vibe of the sixties perfectly. The dance scene is brilliant because it flawlessly cuts between Sandie and Ellie dancing with Jack and I must also praise Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie too because all three actors were fantastic in this scene. There was a lot of brilliant and practical mirror work done in this scene. There were shots where Sandie would look in the mirror and Ellie would be looking back at her instead of her own reflection. This very much gives the impression that Ellie is living the night through Sandie’s perspective. The dance is particularly slick because Jack will spin Sandie out and it will be Ellie who spins back in or he’ll dip Ellie but Sandie will come back up. I believe this scene was done practically as the transitions are so smooth. It very well could have been filmed with both women doing the dance individually and then the scenes were edited together, but it is done so smoothly at times that I suspect it was done practically. This would involve a lot of very precise choreography, but this precision is something that I would associate with Wright. The dvd I bought does have a behind-the-scenes documentary that I plan on watching so I do hope they include how they shot this scene.
I’m not just talking about this back and forth between Sandie and Ellie for no reason, I brought up this point because it is one of the first instances where I feel the movie sets up something that could have been a really cool concept but then does not follow through.
Sandie and Jack end up in a lift. The pair kiss and Jack gives Sandie a hickey on her neck.
When Ellie wakes up in the morning, she has a hickey on her neck in the exact spot that Jack left it on Sandie in her dream so this presents the idea that Ellie physically experiences what happens to Sandie in her dreams.
I thought this was really interesting and I was disappointed when this did not come up again.
This moment also led me to think about what I thought may happen. An idea that I would have been really intrigued by, is the idea that whatever happens to Sandie in the dreams, physically impacts Ellie. So Sandie gets a hickey, Ellie wakes up with a hickey. If Sandie got a bruise, Ellie should have woken up with the same bruise just like she did with the hickey. I wondered if this plot would become about how Ellie would have to somehow stop Sandie from being murdered, because if what happens to Sandie physically impacts Ellie, then surely Sandie being murdered would put Ellie in danger. This did not happen. That was not the plot.
Ellie also did not have to figure out who murdered Sandie. This was not the plot.
I am going to talk about the twist, and then I am going to explain why I did not like the twist.
Jack did not kill Sandie. Jack threatened Sandie with a knife and then she fought back and killed him. Sandie went on to kill the men who came back to her room with the intent of using her for sex. She killed several “Johns” and hid their bodies in the floorboards and walls of her bedsit.
It turns out that Mrs Collins is Sandie. She has managed to keep her secrets for all of these years and now that Ellie has discovered the truth, she panics. In order to keep her secret safe, because she refuses to go to prison, she intends to drug Ellie. All of Sandie’s plans go awry when Ellie’s only friend John knocks on the door to check on her. Mrs Collins stabs him. In Ellie’s room, the room that Sandie committed all the murders in, Ellie is seeing the figures of all the men who Sandie killed. They are crying out to Ellie, begging for help, and begging her to kill Sandie but she won’t. Ellie refuses to kill Sandie and she stops the woman from killing herself with a knife. Ellie is struggling after being drugged, the spirits are shouting, John is bleeding at the bottom of the stairs, and the entire building is burning as a fire has broken out. Mrs Collins/Sandie tells Ellie to get out and escape with John while she stays sitting on the bed as the room becomes engulfed in flames.
Thankfully John recovers – I was so happy about this as he was a really good friend to Ellie throughout the entire film. He is a sweet character and he did not deserve to die. Ellie also recovers and goes back to fashion college. The ending feels far too neat, but I’ll talk about that shortly.
I want to talk about the twist. I did not like it. There are a few reasons as to why I did not like it.
The first being that we watched Jack kill Sandie. In one of Ellie’s dreams, he kills her.
This is where the plot becomes messy. The movie never clarifies whether or not Ellie is having dreams or visions. The things she sees when she goes to sleep are treated as facts.
Ellie sees Jack and Sandie in the flirting stage of the relationship. She watches as Sandie wows him with her voice and her dancing. She is excited when Sandie supposedly gets her first gig, her big break, and then she is horrified to discover that she is not a star at all. Sandie is an overworked backup dancer who is doing a lot more than dancing at night. Ellie wakes up screaming when she dreams about the various men who abuse Sandie in the bedroom. They menacingly unbuckle their belts and laugh at her fear as they stalk towards her. This leads me to this question, if everything up until Sandie’s murder was treated as fact, why did this change when Sandie was allegedly murdered?
Why and how did Ellie see Sandie being murdered if this didn’t actually happen?
Everything else up until this point was portrayed as the accurate unfolding of events in order.
Sandie’s world falling apart and becoming filled with fear as her hopes and dreams are dashed as she is pimped out is a realistic storyline. It is a tragic one. The beginning of the film makes you sympathise with Sandie. She was a wide eyed girl with a beautiful voice and she’s been lured into the world of prostituion and there is no way out because Jack has her under his control. This is believable. So if everything else in Ellie’s dreams was simply an unfolding of events, how did Ellie see a murder that did not actually happen?
Another problem that I have with this is that Ellie is so haunted by Sandie’s murder that she starts to see Sandie in her day to day life. She is haunted by the image of Sandie walking around Soho in her gorgeous pink dress, but the beautiful image is ruined when you glance up and see her slit throat.
Here’s what I think happened. I think that the image of a beautiful Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat is a very powerful, very disturbing image. It is haunting. It is jarring, and as I mentioned earlier, I think Wright notably uses jarring shots. I can understand why any director would want such a shot in their film, however I feel like wanting this imagery may have overshadowed some plot details.
I would also put forward the idea that the film suggests that Ellie sees things from Sandie’s perspective. She is inspired by Sandie, and then she is concerned about Sandie’s safety, so perhaps when Ellie dreams about Jack threatening Sandie with a knife, she assumes that Jack kills her. She may assume this because up until this point, Jack has had all the control in their relationship, and if he is pimping her out and emotionally abusing her, it makes sense that Ellie would assume that him taking a knife to her resulted in her death. I put forward that idea, but the problem with this is that I’m the one putting forward the idea. That is my interpretation as to why Ellie saw Sandie being murdered. The film does not explain why. The film never makes Ellie out to be an unreliable narrator. The film never alludes to the fact that Ellie’s dreams may be biassed or only reflective of one point of view. As I said, the film treats Ellie’s dreams as a window into the past, and through these dreams, we see Sandie’s life play out so that is why it does not make sense that Ellie saw Sandie being murdered if that did not actually happen. To go against my own point, I would ask if we were to say that Ellie is seeing things through Sandie’s eyes then wouldn’t that mean we would have seen what actually happened? If we are seeing things through Sandie’s eyes, then wouldn’t we have seen her murder Jack?
I wish we hadn’t seen Jack murder Sandie. I wish we had seen a knife fight. I wish we had seen a struggle. I wish that instead of seeing visions of Sandie with her throat slit, that we had seen visions of her covered in blood. This would have been more vague. We don’t see Jack again after the murder dream. We only see the older man, the one the movie lets us assume is Jack.
If we had seen Sandie covered in blood, it would have been easier to wrongly assume that Jack killed her and got away with it. This would make sense. Ellie has been seeing Sandie’s struggles all this time. She has formed a connection with Sandie. Ellie feels sorry for her. If Ellie had dreamt about a knife struggle but woke up before anyone was killed, and then saw images of a bloody Sandie walking around Soho, it would be fair for naive and out of her depth in London Ellie to assume that Jack is the one who killed Sandie. The fact that this is not left elusive, the fact that we see Jack slitting her throat makes this twist really redactive. It was not really a twist in my opinion. We saw him kill her and then a while later, the movie tells us “actually he didn’t kill her, she killed him. Surprise!”
It feels messy.
I also don’t like this twist because I don’t like what the end of this film does to Sandie.
I will say that talking about a fictional murder is extremly different to talking about a real life murder. Fictonal murders are different because depending on the genre of film, murder can very easily become an act that is easier to understand.
Let’s look at Sandie’s character.
She is a young girl who lives alone. There is no mention of her family. She wants to be a singer. She’s talented. She can sing, she can dance, she is charming. She is told to speak to Jack. She does. He is the ultimate teddy boy. He is charming, he’s a smooth talker. He promises her the world and he seems to be opening doors for her. He tells her he loves her, and in the beginning at least, he defends her from sleazy grips and prying eyes. She feels safe with him. “I’m with Jack,” she says. The job turns out to be a backup dancing gig at a gentlemen’s club. The girls are expected to perform onstage and offstage, the dressing rooms are filled with girls who are forced to perform sexual acts and it is clear that some of the girls are not well at all, so clearly noone really cares too much about their wellbeing. Sandie does not have a way out. The men know where she lives, Jack knows where she lives and there is no way he is letting her out. He feels a sense of ownership over her. He is not going to let her just walk away. He is controlling and he is violent, he proves this by pulling out a knife. He just did not expect her to fight back and turn the tables on him.
The idea of an abused girl fighting back and killing her pimp in self defence is one that I can’t say I disagree with. I can’t say that I blame Sandie for killing Jack. Ellie even tells Sandie that she doesn’t blame her, that she understands why she did what she did. The film also presents all of the other men as terrifying figures throughout the film. The images of them following Ellie down the streets and to school are really unsettling. The scenes where shadowy hands are reaching out to grab her feel really uncomfortable to watch, especially as a young woman, so when the film pulls the switch and suddenly has all of these dead “Johns” crying out to Ellie for help, it feels off.
Sandie is then presented as a serial killer because she killed the many men who came back to her room and wanted to pay her for sex. The film presents this idea that she is getting revenge on all of those “Johns” who use and abuse her by killing them. This is another point that caused me to have conflicting opinions and I actually struggled to gather my thoughts articulately because killing that many people is wrong and being able to kill that many people has to have a profound impact on a person. In the fight with Jack, it was self defence, she did not go out that day knowing she would kill Jack that night. There does come a point though, where it is intentional. She knows that when she takes these other men back to her room that she is going to kill them one by one. She feels they deserve it.
Do they deserve it? That is an interesting question. The film does not make these men sympathetic whatsoever. They are portrayed as sleazy, predatory, arrogant figures who love to watch the girls dance and then get a private show later. The men who interact with Sandie act like they’re entitled to do whatever they like with her and to her. The audition scene is particularly seedy in hindsight. At first it seems as though Jack and the owner of the bar are in awe of her voice. The two men share a look. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that the owner was not impressed by her singing, there was never any intention of making Sandie a star, the only intention was to turn her into a prostitute and they succeeded. It’s hard not to still sympathise with Sandie. She says herself that she died in that room a hundred times, and in a way she did. The innocent Sandie died in that room. The Sandie who didn’t know violence died in that room. The Sandie who just wanted to be a singer died in that room. The old man who we think is Jack, who I will talk about properly in my next point, has a line about how he used to know all of the pretty girls. He talks to Ellie about the pretty girls, the pretty blonde girls. He says he doesn’t remember them all because “they all look the same on the slab.” It is a horrible line. It is a line that stood out. It is cold, it is callous. I think it is hard to think of Sandie as a cold killer when the film tells us that these men simply used young girls for their pleasure. They didn’t care about them as people. They didn’t care about their safety or their wellbeing. They would not care if they found out that one of those girls ended up dead.
Historically we know that if a female prostitute wound up dead, the crime was not taken all that seriously because the victim was viewed as someone who deserved it or a prostitute’s life wasn’t considered that important anyways. I have talked about this in my discussion of Jekyll & Hyde the musical as it is a very prominent plot point. You can read this discussion by clicking the link below https://katelovesliterature.com/2021/10/22/jekyll-hyde-the-musical/
The film Lost Girls is based on a tragic true story and this film demonstrates how some people, even those investigating the crime, often lack any emphty for the victims because of the fact that they were prostitutes. You can read my review of this film by clicking the link below.
I am aware that I am linking several of my other reviews in this discussion. I am doing so because the points I am making relate to points I have made in more detail when discussing other pieces that contain similar themes and if you’re interested in exploring these points further and reading about how these points were portrayed in other stories, then you can go ahead and read some of my other discussions if you haven’t already.
If Sandie had have been murdered, it is fair to assume that her death wouldn’t have been taken all that seriously based on the fact that she was a prostitute in the 60s. Lost Girls is not a period piece and the film demonstrates how even in this day and age, certain victims will be dismissed because of the lives they lead so it is fair to assume that had Sandie died, some would have had the attitude that she got what was coming to her. Last Night in Soho is a film that deomonstartes how easy it is for a young girl to end up working as a prostitute so is it fair to say that any prostitute deserves to be murdered? I don’t think so. I think that seeing every step of Sandie’s struggles made it really difficult to condemn her actions even though they did change from self defence to intentional. The reason for this is that the film presents the men as very predatory figures who abuse young girls, so as an audience member, it is hard to sympathise when these men cry out for help. Sandie cried out for help. Sandie cried out in fear. They laughed at her.
The film then goes a step too far with Sandie because while I can say that killing that many people is wrong but I can understand Sandie’s motive behind doing so, when Sadie stabs Ellie’s friend John there is no turning back. To an extent, I can understand why she drugged Ellie. She has lived her whole life with her secrets and she does not want to go to prison and now because of Ellie, she may be caught. So she panics. She drugs Ellie so that her secret won’t get out. It is an act of desperation. Was it wrong? Yes. Do I understand it? Yes. Why do I understand it? I understand it because it is in character. It aligns with everything she has done so far. Every ounce of understanding goes away when she stabs Ellie’s friend John. There was no need. There is no justification for it. Ellie swore she wouldn’t tell anyone the truth she has learned, and I believe that she wouldn’t have. She still felt sorry for Sandie. She understood why Sandie committed those murders. As a viewer, I believed that Ellie would have taken that secret to her grave, but Sandie couldn’t trust that so she drugged her. Stabbing John was unnecessary. He was completely innocent. He knocked on the door to make sure Ellie was okay. Sandie could have said she was sick. She did not need to stab him. Sandie even makes it a point to say she is not going to kill Ellie with a knife because she would not do that to her, she does not deserve it. The only reason Sandie is planning to kill Ellie is because she wants her secret to die with Ellie. She does not believe that Ellie deserves to die violently the way the “Johns” did. Sandie drugged Ellie’s tea and planned for her to fall asleep and die peacefully so this demonstrates that Sandie does not just ruthlessly brandish her knife, but then she stabs John. She uses her knife on someone completely innocent when she really didn’t have to and this action cannot be justified.
Sandie is a very flawed character, and while murder is objectively wrong, there was at least a clear motive from Sandie’s point of view and while you can disagree with her actions, at least you can see why she did what she did, you can see why she wanted revenge. She’s complicated. She’s layered. Her actions and the reasons behind those actions invite audiences to think about morals and how complex the morally right thing can be. I think having her stab a completely innocent boy ruins that, because in my opinion, that is a point that can’t be overlooked.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this film in preparation of writing this review and every time I think about it, I think why did she have to do that to John? Everything else, I could see the motive behind it, but hurting John has no defence and I think that really hurts her character.
I mentioned in a point above how I felt that the imagery of Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat was a very powerful visual and I felt the want for this jarring visual overtook some plot points making sense. I think that this happened again when it came to Sandie’s final scene.
I think that the idea of having Sandie die on that bed, in that room, as the room becomes engulfed in flames is a very poignant idea. The visuals were stunning. Scary, heartbreaking, but stunning. Again, despite all of the flaws, this film was beautifully crafted. I think the idea that Sandie metaphorically died in that room a hundred times and now she will literally die in that room is a very, very poignant idea. I think that having Sandie sit on that bed in that room as it became engulfed in flames was a visual that was really wanted, but a reason was needed for it, which is why the choice was made to turn Sandie into this serial killer who was desperate to keep her secret. In order to have this powerful scene on the bed, the film needed to provide a reason as to why Sandie would do that. So the film has Sandie decide to die on her own terms. She refuses to be caught by the police. Ellie stops her from using the knife on herself, but she still won’t allow herself to be caught so she tells Ellie to run and she dies on her own terms, on her own bed.
I will also take a moment to say that all of the thoughts that I have expressed in this review are entirely my own. People can feel free to disagree. People can love this film, and feel that the twist was brilliant. People can enjoy the fact that it became somewhat of a slasher film.
I am not saying that what I think is right. Film is subjective and films are always open to interpretation. Personally, I was so excited to watch this film, but based on the trailers I thought it would be completely different. I loved the idea and loved many things within the film such as the music, the costumes, the use of lighting, I did feel that while this film is beautifully crafted, the plot gets messy. Too many things don’t add up in my opinion. Too many things were brilliant concepts but they were let down by the execution. I also think that certain plot points were overlooked and allowed to be messy because certain visuals were wanted. I love powerful imagery. I am in favour of getting really interesting, dynamic, and startling shots, but they need to make sense.
I want to talk about the old man before I talk about the film’s ending. The old man is a red herring. There are many times in the film where we see Jack and then in the present day, we see the old man. So the film allows audiences to assume that he is Jack. There were a few moments where I was unsure, because the film doesn’t clarify who this man actually is until the third act. When it was revealed that the old man who had spoken to Ellie in such an ominous way about the past was actually a retired undercover detective who had once tried to help Sandie, again I just couldn’t help but feel that this was a messy twist.
The old man’s real name is Lindsey and when Ellie thinks back through her dreams, she does recall one night when a man tried to help Sandie. It turns out that this man was Lindsey.
Ellie confronts Lindsey before she learns his true identity. She thinks he is Jack. She attempts to get him to confess to killing Sandie. This results in an argument and Lindsey leaves the pub angry, only to be killed when he is hit by a car. It is only when he is dead that Ellie is told who this man actually is, and she is horrified to learn that she wasn’t questioning Jack after all.
This moment disappoints me because it just feels a bit pointless. Lindsey’s death feels really unnecessary, as does John’s stabbing. I think the problem is that the film doesn’t allow audiences to feel connected to Lindsey as a character. The film allows us to assume he is Jack for a very long time, and Lindsey isn’t exactly the nicest character. He’s guarded. He seems very suspicious of Ellie. He is not exactly kind. At one point he even asks Ellie if he scares her, and he seems to smirk at the idea that he does, taking pleasure in her discomfort instead of easing her mind.
In my opinion, we don’t see him enough in Ellie’s dreams of the past. There is a brilliant yet devastating montage of Sandie being forced to dance by Jack. She dances to get the attention of men. These men buy her a drink, ask her for her name, they tell her she has a lovely name, and then they proceed to use her for their pleasure. It happens over, and over, and over again. The point being that these “Johns” are all the same. The same club, the same approach, the same drink, the same question, the same answer, and then the same result at the end of the night. Sandie gets more and more delirious as she answers the same questions over, and over because she knows exactly how her night is going to play out. It plays out the same way every time.
Lindsey is in this montage. He’s at the table with her, arguing with her about how she is better than this, but Sandie knows she is being watched intently by Jack so she feels too trapped to accept his help. When the film reveals that Lindsey was actually a detective, there’s this idea presented that he was a good guy all along and it is a shame that he died. It is a shame that he died, he didn’t need to, but the devastation of everyone else in the pub feels misplaced because they don’t connect with him throughout the film. He is never once presented as a great man who everyone loves and respects, he is always presented as a lone figure, who is silently observing Ellie and the way he stares at her sometimes is borderline uncomfortable. I think the film made him behave this way so that audiences would not trust him, so that we would believe he is Jack, so that the reveal that he is not Jack would feel like a shocking twist, but doing that hurts this twist because he was not a particularly nice old man, and there were not enough scenes with him from the past.
I would argue that if we had seen him more in the past, if we had seen him actively trying to help Sandie, actively trying to get her away from Jack, if we had been given the opportunity to get to know his character then this twist and his death would have felt much more poignant. If he had been a reserved old man who refused to talk about the past because it was too upsetting instead of an ominous figure, then this moment would have had more impact. It would have been a different character if he had done all he could to help Sandie but couldn’t, and didn’t want to talk about the past because that time and those memories bring him pain, and then for him to tragically get hit by a car after all of that, that would have hit harder. I could also argue that this would be somewhat melodramatic to have this person who tried his very best fail, be haunted by that failure, and then tragically die. I’m not saying that this would have been the perfect solution. The point I’m trying to make is that I feel that in order for that twist and his death to work, we needed to feel more connected to Lindsey as a character. I feel we didn’t know Lindsey at all, so that entire scene just felt sloppy.
I think the main reason I didn’t love Last Night in Soho as much as I expected to is because within this plot, I feel that there were some really brilliant concepts, but as I talk about moments that I found to be quite messy, and when I try to think about how I would have liked those moments to make more sense, I find that I’m almost creating a different film.
I’m not a screenwriter, and I’m not a director, but I just see so many threads that if you pull on them enough, the plot slowly unravels. This is a shame because the premise is really creative and intriguing, but I think the decision to make it an almost slasher film was a mistake.
I like the idea of Ellie dreaming about a cold case and in order to escape the nightmares, she attempts to prove that Sandie was murdered. Lindsey could have been a reserved, retired, jaded detective who finally agrees to work with her because he couldn’t prove Sandie was murdered at the time. This would have been a different film.
If the film wanted to keep the twist that Sandie killed Jack, okay then maybe Lindsey found out and kept her secret all these years because he felt that Jack was a cruel man and Sandie fought back in self defence. Ellie poking around and questioning the past would threaten Lindsey and Sandie in modern day because the crime they covered up would be at risk of being revealed and they would get caught. This would have been a different film.
I really loved the idea that Ellie is physically impacted by what happened to Sandie in her dreams. So I would have loved for this to have continued rather than just stopping after the hickey. It was a really cool idea that happened once and not ever again. Why? Why did it only happen once? How did she get the hickey but no other physical proof of what happened in her dreams? If Ellie is physically impacted then Sandie being murdered puts her in physical danger and she would have to somehow figure out how to save Sandie and save herself and that is where the horror comes in. With every dream, she takes one step closer to being murdered. Again, this would have been a different film.
There were so many different and interesting concepts within this film. I think the original premise lends itself to going in many different directions, all of which would have been creative, compelling, and rather poignant. The film could have kept its horror elements even if they had gone in a different direction and I think it is disappointing that the direction that was chosen led to messy storylines and messy executions of really cool ideas.
The film’s ending feels far too neatly wrapped up. Ellie returns to fashion college and thrives. Her former bullies tell her she is so brave after all she has been through. There were three bullies in this film, the classic Mean Girls set up where we meet the head bully and her two minions. Jocasta is the leader of the pack. She dislikes Ellie immediately. She makes fun of Ellie for making her own clothes, she thinks Ellie is boring and weird, she’s also jealous when Ellie gets positive feedback from a teacher. Throughout the course of the film, Ellie is getting more and more paranoid in her real life because she keeps seeing disturbing figures from her dreams and she fears that the men and Jack are after her. There is a very disturbing scene in the library where Ellie is terrified that she is being chased by attackers so she grabs a pair of scissors to defend herself. Her only friend John grabs a hold of her and stops her right in time because when Ellie comes to, she realises that that figure she was about to stab is actually Jocasta. The pair of scissors is dangerously close to Jocasta’s face and she is rightfully angry over what has happened. Ellie can’t explain her actions as she feels no one will believe her. She is afraid people will think she is mad. This incident is never mentioned again. Ellie runs from the library. John follows as he is desperately trying to figure out what is wrong and what has happened.
At the end of the film when Ellie is back in college, Jocasta is never mentioned again. The two girls who used to laugh at Ellie with Jocasta tell her that she is so brave. They are suddenly being kind to her. Jocasta is alone in the background of the shot. She is not smiling, but she does not look angry, she is just sort of there and it just feels off. She was nearly stabbed in the face with a pair of scissors but there was absolutely no mention of how this issue got resolved. After everything Ellie just goes back to college and John and her Nan watch happily from the audience as she does very well at an end of year fashion show. It is a happy ending and I like happy endings, but this felt bizarrely wrapped up in a bow and it didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film.
Overall I am delighted that I got to watch Last Night in Soho at last. I would watch the film again, and despite being let down by the plot twists and feeling that the plot became messy, I would recommend it to anyone who has not seen it because the cast is brilliant and there are some really fantastic moments in the film that I did enjoy. The music was fantastic. The way the film captured the setting of the 60s was wonderful. The way the energy shifts from flirty and glamorous to seedy and terrifying is done brilliantly. There are moments in the film that are so unsettling, and this feeling is achieved from the creative use of lighting and sound. I also really love the practical shots and the mirror acting. It is a very creative shot that you don’t see all that often. If you’re a fashion or makeup buff, then I think you’ll love the costumes. The 60s looks, particularly Sandie’s, are gorgeous. I’ve said it a few times in this discussion but it is worth repeating because it is true, the film is visually stunning. It is a well made film that just has a messy plot. I would love for a few things to have been different, so that the overall plot could have made more sense, but even with all of the things that I wish were different, I can’t deny that I enjoyed this film. I plan to watch the behind-the-scenes documentary as I believe it will be fascinating and I look forward to seeing how certain things were done.
Have you seen Last Night in Soho? What are your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Agree with me? Disagree with me? I’d love to know.
Do you have a movie that you think is really well made despite being full of things that just don’t make sense when you think about it? What movie is it?