[Editor's Note: The following contains spoilers for Last Night in Soho]
Last Night In Soho takes us on a journey through nostalgia and teaches us one important lesson: Living in the past isn’t good for anyone. But what makes the movie work so well and why it stays with you long after you leave the theater is because of Eloise. Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise (or Ellie), a young fashion student who moves to London and has a connection with the spiritual world.
Typically, she sees her mother and while it is clear that it is something that frightens her grandmother, Eloise seems to embrace this connection she has and tries to not let it stop her. But when school seems to be a bit much, it might be her downfall. Eloise is, for the most part, a very innocent character. And that innocence works to carry us through the film.
Foolishly, she thinks she’ll come to fashion school and make friends and when her roommate is exceptionally harsh towards her and her outfit that she made, it begins to break Ellie’s spirits until she finds a room for rent in Soho where she can escape her roommate and focus on making her grandmother and the memory of her mother proud.
So, how does Eloise’s innocence come into play? Through her time in the 60s. Through her gift, Ellie can experience a time different from her own and when she goes to bed at night, she’s transported to the life that Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) led in the 60s. And at first, it is a beautiful nightlife filled with music and Vespers and happiness that Eloise only experienced through the music her grandmother shared with her.
But as the movie goes on, we see the downfall of trying to live in the past. Ellie’s innocence comes into play when it seems as if Sandie has been murdered by Jack (Matt Smith) and Eloise realizes that she won’t be free from her nightlife in Soho until she solves Sandie’s death in the present day.
What makes Last Night In Soho so special is that it doesn’t ever make Eloise a “dumb” character. She’s incredibly smart and strategic but she is also coming at this from the point of view of someone who glamourized the time period and tried to captivate what was fascinating about the 60s without any of the horrors.
But each night, she’s confronted with the pain that women went through in the 60s through the eyes of Sandie until she’s forced to see that Sandie wasn’t perfect either. The surprise twist of Last Night In Soho isn’t that “oh this woman is a serial killer she’s horrible” but comes, instead, from a place of empathy.
Sandie isn’t a good person, that much is clear, but Eloise seems to understand why Sandie did this. She was being used and abused by the men who came crawling to her door and once she killed the man who started it all, there was no stopping her. Switching to her in the modern-day, she clearly was trying to take care of Ellie.
It is revealed that Eloise’s landlady, Miss Collins (Diana Riggs), is actually modern-day Sandie and through Ellie’s dreams, she’s beginning to connect the dots as to why all the ghosts of the men from Sandie’s past are stalking her life, even when she’s awake. And it seems as if Sandie keeping her secret for all these years isn’t enough and though she cares for Ellie, she’s willing to kill her too if it means protecting what she had to do to survive.
This all ties into Ellie’s innocence because we, as the audience, never really suspect Miss Collins of anything other than being an older woman living on her own. It isn’t suspect to us because Eloise doesn’t suspect her of anything. And that leads into her trust of Miss Collins and the inevitable fall out from it.
Thinking about Last Night In Soho, there is really no better character to see this story through than Ellie. If we just split the time or even saw it through Sandie’s turn and had the twist come to us in some other way, it wouldn’t hit as hard as watching Ellie realize that this time she wanted to escape to was horrifying.
Last Night In Soho is definitely one of the best movies of this year and maybe the best work we’ve gotten out of Edgar Wright (which is saying something because his movies are usually spot-on). It’s one trip to the past that will change the way you view nostalgia and that’s all thanks to Eloise.
Rachel Leishman is a writer based in New York City. She specializes in yelling about her favorite properties. A real-life Leslie Knope, she loves her fictional characters and knows probably too much about Harrison Ford's career.