I have been wanting to see Last Night in Soho ever since I first heard it mentioned, but after last night’s viewing, I realized that I had gone into it with absolutely no idea what it was to be about. Mesmerized by the groovy, dreamy, colorful time-traveling mystery vibes, I never bothered looking into it further or read any reviews to see what folks had to say about it.
If I am not being too picky, I’d say that I enjoyed this story of timid country-mouse Anna, moving to the city of London to pursue her fashion design dreams. Anna is a rather sensitive soul, both in her personality and behavior as well as her psychic ability. She often sees the ghost of her mother hanging around her and her gran’s house, and it seems like a friendly-comforting presence, but we do learn that at some point earlier in time Anna had a bit of a mental breakdown of a sort, ostensibly related to these sensitivities, but I’m not sure if we ever learn more about it than that.
Anna attempts to settle into her student housing situation but her roommate, the singularly named Jocasta, is quite horrible in all the typical mean-girl ways. Anna says “fuck this” and finds a bedsit above a garlicky French bistro, run by a cranky Mrs. Collins. Things start to go weird almost immediately, as on a nightly basis Anna is transported to the swinging sixties where it seems from our perspective, she both watches and becomes budding starlet, Sandie–whose existence goes from dazzling romance and glamourous nightlife to grimy and gross under the predatory management of slimy Matt Smith, and which involves “entertaining” a slew of handsy, faceless men. Anna becomes increasingly jangled and disoriented in her waking life at design school, in her job at the bar which she obtained in order to afford the alternative housing, and in her growing friendship with John, an adorably sweet fellow design student. These visions culminate in a moment of blood and violence, and Anna’s reality utterly fragments.
As a person who is terribly, overwhelmingly sensitive to how humans behave toward one another, this film was such an interesting study in how shitty and shifty people can be, but also how gorgeously, heartbreakingly kind, and empathetic they can be, too. I don’t guess it’s the point of the film at all, but two interactions nearly brought me to tears. They both happen at the bar where Anna is working. John (the film’s sole Black character, I should add) shows up to check on her because he is worried, and they have a bit of small but really lovely interaction and he is just such a wonderful character amidst a throng of nasties. I wish they’d given him a bigger part, I really do. And the second moment in this vein also happened at the bar; Anna asks her boss Carol if she believes in ghosts. Carol’s response was just so thoughtful and reassuring. I really loved it:
“Ghosts? Why, are you scared down here? Look, I believe every old house, public or not, has its history, but this place? If this place is haunted by anything, it’s the good times. The good vibrations and I don’t mean The Beach Boys. When it’s empty in here all I hear is the laughs. Every gangster, every copper, every red-faced lush has been in here and all those high spirits have soaked into the walls. You could probably get drunk just on that.”
I had said that if I wasn’t being too picky, I would say that I enjoyed it. But. The film really fell apart for me at the end and about that all I will say is that it was visually beautiful and transportive and marvelously immersive, and I wish they had just run with that angle for the entirety of the film. We won’t get into all the rest of the whys, as I try to keep my thoughts here relatively spoiler free, but I’ll leave it with that while I guess I liked it okay enough, I did not love Last Night In Soho.