Last Night in Soho (2021)

Last Night in Soho is a 2021 British psychological horror film directed by Edgar Wright and starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Diana Rigg and Terrence Stamp. It is the final film appearances of Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who both died in 2020.

The film follows Eloise “Ellie” Turner, who loves the music and fashion of the Swinging Sixties and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mother, who was also a designer, killed herself when Ellie was a child. Ellie occasionally sees her mother’s ghost in mirrors.

Ellie moves from her rural house in Redruth, Cornwall, to London, to study at the London College of Fashion, where she has trouble fitting in with the other students, especially her stuck up roommate Jocasta. Only John, another student, is sympathetic towards her. Unhappy in the dorms of the school, Ellie moves into a bedsit in Goodge Place owned by the elderly Ms. Collins.

That night, Ellie has a vivid dream where she is carried back in time to the 1960s. At the Cafe de Paris, she sees a brave young blonde woman, Sandie, ask about becoming a singer at the club. Sandie begins a relationship with charming teddy boy manager, Jack. The next morning, Ellie designs a dress inspired by Sandie and discovers a love bite on her neck.

Ellie has another dream in which Sandie auditions at a Soho nightclub, arranged by Jack. before returning to the same bedsit that Ellie has rented. Inspired by these dreams, Ellie dyes her hair blonde, changes her clothing style and gets a job at a pub. She is approached by a grey haired man, who recognizes her resemblance to Sandie is not living the life she had wanted and Jack begins to pimp Sandie to his male business partners. Ellie begins an investigation after discovering in a dream that murders have taken place in the bedsit and soon discovers that the owner of the place she is renting from has a dark past and that she may or may not be the real Sandie.

This film is equal parts intense, twisted, bizarre and disturbing. The combination of putting present day London and 1960s London together is ingeniously done, combining the fashion and music of today’s Britain to the fashion and music and to what it was in 60s, along with the two stories clashing together as one and at times separately. The soundtrack is great combining both sixties and 2000s hits, the fashion is fantastic, everything Sandie and Jack (others from the 60s) wear is beautiful and spot on with the time period, making the film both gorgeous and thrilling at the same time.

Thomasin McKenzie does a good, not great job in the film as Ellie Turner, but was not the best fit for the role. Anya Taylor-Joy is outstanding job as Sandie , Matt Smith is equally outstanding as Jack. Terrance Stamp is good as Lindsey, the grey haired older man who stalks Ellie at the pub, I just wish he had had more lines in the movie.

The film seems to jump into the wickedness almost too quickly, not really building up much beforehand. You do learn how Sandie meets Jack, but you learn too fast, so that part is bit rushed, making it seem like she becomes nightclub star and he becomes her boyfriend and pimp overnight, which is impossible. The story is almost all intensity and too much of it takes place in the 60s world and not in the present day. Also, the film towards the end, stretches the horror factor too far, making the landlady into the overdone insane character, which at first you think is Ellie.

If the director would’ve spent equal time in both eras, stopped the overdoing of the weird towards the end and cast a better actress for Ellie, the film would have been fantastic. It is still entertaining, but I don’t see it winning any best picture awards or Palme d’Or at Cannes. But both Taylor-Joy and Smith deserve awards for their performances. 18+ 3.5/5

Shirley (2020)

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Shirley is a 2020 American biographical drama film directed by Josephine Decker based on the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Morrell. It stars Elizabeth Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg Odessa Young and Logan Lerman. The film follows a young couple that moves in with Shirley Jackson and her Bennington College professor husaband, Stanley Hyman, hooping to start a new life. Instead they find themselves in a psycho thriller drama that inspires her next book.

You learn a lot about the life of thriller and mystery writer Shirley Jackson and her mental and physical health. She was a heavy drinker, had severe manic depression, was paranoid schizophrenic, agoraphobic, selfish and often times mean, speaking exactly what she was thinking. She was married to Stanley Hyman from 1940-1965 when she died.

Shirley (Moss) never leaves the house and studies the young wife, Rose Nemser who is living in the house and helping out around the home while going to school and looking for a job. Rose’s husband is Fred Nemser and he eventually becomes a professor at Bennington too, like Stanley. The young couple discover that Shirley is mentally ill and needs 24/7 care but Stanley refuses it telling them to just leave her alone and let her do her writing alone. Rose finds a page of Shirley’s newest novel in progress, starts to read it, discovering it’s about Fred and her,  gets upset and offended. Shirley walks in and finds her reading it and they both get angry and fight. Shirley hits Rose across the face.

Rose tells Fred about what happened and he doesn’t believe her until one evening at dinner when Shirley acts out dark and twisted scene, pointing a knife at both of them. The couple tell Stanley they can’t continue living there with Shirley in the house and they both beg him to send her to a mental institution, which he turns down, saying she is better off at home with him. Other parts of the film read and reenact scenes from Jackson’s book Hangsaman.

Elizabeth Moss is fantastic as Shirley Jackson and Michael Stuhlbarg is outstanding as Stanley Hyman. Odessa Young and Logan Lerman are very good, not great as Rose and Fred Nemser. The chronicles the life of Shirley and Stanley and the Nemsers that live with them and her latest novel.

Them film is fairly spectacular but would have be better if it had started from her childhood but it’s not a documentary. But you still get to know Shirley well as in her mental illnesses, her drinking problem and her inspirations and writing style. She may have been ill, but she was a fantastic writer and has inspired many ther writers.

This film is filled with illnesses, selfishness, drinking, smoking, fighting and sex. There is full frontal nudity in a couple of scenes as well, so no young viewers at all, only adults. The role of Shirley was one hundred percent perfect for Moss. No other person could have played her but Elizabeth. This a dark, pretty disturbing (at times) film. It shows how how mental health issues affect people and the ones around them and how a writer comes up with their stories. Some parts are a bit slow, but overall an  excellent movie. 18 & up 4.5/5