‘Last Night in Soho’ ending explained: Why does Eloise see Sandie in the mirror?
(Credits: Focus Features)

Film Flashback

‘Last Night in Soho' ending explained: Why does Eloise see Sandie in the mirror?

Edgar Wright‘s 2021 horror movie Last Night in Soho lifts the lid on a darker side of Swinging London in the 1960s, with its storyline of female exploitation on the Soho club scene. Although it might sometimes miss the mark, the film is usually swinging in the right direction.

Particularly in its sympathetic handling of what happens to ‘60s starlet Sandie Collins. Sandie is primarily played by Anya Taylor-Joy, the lead actor in flagship Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and 2020 movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Her character in Wright’s movie serves as an avatar for visions of ‘60s London that protagonist Eloise “Ellie” Turner experiences in her dreams. Ellie sees Sandie being exploited and abused by Soho club manager Jack and his various high-flying associates in the entertainment industry, before dreaming that Jack murders her.

In a revelation that shocks Ellie, it turns out that the shoe was on the other foot. Sandie is still very much alive, and is Ellie’s elderly landlady Ms Collins. Collins reveals that she killed the men Jack had forced her to sleep with, after stabbing him to death as well. Once she’s told her story, at first she tries to get rid of Ellie, too, to stop her own crimes being found out.

What follows is a stunning dreamlike sequence in which Taylor-Joy’s Sandie slashes at Ellie with a bloodied knife as she desperately crawls up her landlady’s staircase backwards, to the sound of Cilla Black’s ‘60s power ballad ‘You’re My World’. When Ms Collins, knife in hand. enters Ellie’s room at the top of the stairs, however, the two of them encounter the ghosts of the abusive men she has killed.

“I didn’t want any of this,” Collins tells Ellie. “They deserved it.”

“I know,” Ellie replies.

So does Sandie die?

Collins then tries to slit her own throat, telling her young tenant, “I’m not going to prison. I’ve been in prison all my life.” Ellie stops her, hugging her as she imagines she’s hugging the younger Sandie Collins.

“You can’t save me,” Sandie insists, as the house is engulfed in the flames of a fire Ellie had started by accident as she tried to escape being stabbed . “Save yourself. Go.” As Ellie and her friend John escape the fire, Sandie stays sitting in her old bedroom as her house and the remains of her life collapse all around her.

This is the last we see of Sandie Collins. That is, until the film’s final shots. After wowing an audience with her fashion show featuring vintage ‘60s styles, Ellie looks in the mirror and sees her dead mother, as she has done several times earlier in the movie. She looks away, but when she looks back there is someone else standing there.

Taylor-Joy’s young Sandie waves at her, blows her a kiss and winks. As Ellie walks up to the mirror, she touches it and Sandie does likewise from the other side, before the credits roll.

This moment demonstrates that Ellie is, in a sense, a reincarnation of Sandie, living her dreams of ‘60s stardom in London five decades later. The real Sandie, Ms Collins, may have died in a fire. But her younger self lives on in the aspirations Ellie is able to fulfill, given the different treatment of women in present-day London.

This conceit may be a dramatic oversimplification of women’s position in showbusiness today. And the exploitative misogyny of the sex industry is very much alive and well in London. Still, it makes for a life-affirming redemption arc that presents us with a realistic version of what might have been for Sandie, were she born at a different time.