By Nigel Watson
Last Night In Soho is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from 10 – 16 December.
Ellie lives with her Granny in Cornwall, and through her inspiration she is fascinated by the music and fashion of the 1960s. On her headset she constantly listens to the hits of the 60s, including the McCartney penned song ‘A World Without Love’ that sums-up the underlying theme of the film.
Getting a place on a fashion design course in London, Ellie is quickly initiated into the dangers of the city. As an introduction the taxi driver taking her from the train station to her student accommodation makes several sleazy comments, warning her that “It’s still the same old London underneath.” She is made even more uncomfortable and unwelcome by her room-mate who is self-centred and selfish.
Things turn out better when Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) is able to rent a room at a nearby house owned by Ms Collins (Diana Rigg). The house has not changed much since the 60s and she finds her attic room more conducive to her state-of-mind than her modern student room.
Sleeping in her new room she is transported back in time to the glamour of Soho in 1965. The latest James Bond movie ‘Thunderball’ starring Sean Connery is in the cinemas and she glides into the elegant Café de Paris where the guest singer is Cilla Black. Ellie is invisible to everyone and she follows the progress of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) who aspires to be a famous singer. Is it all a series of vivid dreams or really visions of the past?
Over the following nights Sandie/Ellie becomes involved with show business agent Jack (Matt Smith) and things take a more terrifying twist that makes Ellie fearful of falling asleep. For her peace of mind she has to find out what became of Sandy, as she thinks Jack might have killed her. The police are of no help and they think Ellie is deluded and is in need of psychological help and support. Indeed, is she mentally ill, like her Mother, who committed suicide?
The powerful echo of the 1960s is provided by the performances of Rita Tushingham, Ellie’s Granny, who made a powerful debut in the 1961 classic ‘A Taste of Honey’; Terence Stamp who plays a sinister Soho character who knows everyone; and, in one of her last roles, Diana Rigg, who is best known for her role in ‘The Avengers’ TV series.
Appropriately enough, Matt Smith a former Dr Who plays the villainous Jack who drags Sandy into the grimy underbelly of Soho’s sex industry. Before the rot sets in he dances with Sandy at the Café de Paris, evoking memories of the famous dance between John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction.’ For film buffs there are plenty of nods to the likes of ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Peeping Tom’ and Hammer Horror films.
Directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, best known for his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy, this appears at first sight to be another rags-to-riches story, with Ellie as the fish-out-of-water girl who overcomes all obstacles. Yet, it is more than that as it takes us on a twisting and often terrifying journey through the streets of London that even Ralph McTell never dreamt of.