Empire of Light

Empire of Light

A love story set in and around an old cinema on the South Coast of England in the 1980s.

  • Released: 2022-11-12
  • Runtime: 115 minutes
  • Genre: Drama, Romance
  • Stars: Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Sara Stewart, Adrian McLoughlin, Spike Leighton, Ashleigh Reynolds, Mark Goldthorp, Dylan Blore, Eliza Glock, Tim Samuels, Jamie Whitlow, Dougie Boyall, D.J. Bailey, George Whitehead
  • Director: Sam Mendes
  • Dello_ - 29 January 2024
    Cinematography masterclass, but thematically too rich
    I didn't know what to expect from Empire of Light due to the mixed reviews it received but I fortunately found a good movie. Still it's not a phenomenal one or something for the ages but it does its own in a nice way. The first thing that has to be mentioned is the cinematography combined with the settings since they are phenomenal. This aspect of the movie was so perfectly crafted that Empire of Light was really a pleasure for the eyes. Where the movie is weaker (but still ok) is on the plot and emotional aspects of it. Personally I found the story a bit unsubsequential and with a small emotional weight. Indeed I didn't see all that character development in a movie that is mainly focuses on that. Yes, there are some changes of the status quo but I felt like that characters went on on emotional journeys that didn't actually change much in the end as far as their persona. The other issue of the movie is that in my opinion it tries to touch too many topics without the time to properly investigate them. To mention a few there is a celebration of the power of cinema, their is a love story featuring two people with a big age difference and of different ethnic groups, racism is touched as well as mental health but also harassment on the workplace is tackled. The result is that no topic is really deeply investigate but they are only touched.

    In the end Empire of Light is still a good movie that you must watch if you love cinematography in movies. However it tastes a bit of wasted potential because by removing some themes and be more focused on a handful of them it could have been so much more.
  • Denno1972 - 15 July 2023
    Really very good
    This is a very good movie. Well written, superbly acted, very good cinematography and emotionally wrought. It also covers many themes, mental health, race relations, unlikely friendships, abuse, discourse and the power of cinema to help us deal with these things.

    There are so many good things in this movie that it is mainly unfair to pick out one, but olivia Colemans performance is utterly superb. She conveys so many things here. Happiness, confusion, sadness, clarity, way, coldness and many others. She often does this just through looks, there a scene at the end if the movie over a drink (no spoilers) where the facial expressions say a 1000 words, superb stuff.

    I have to mention the professional reviews on imdb, especially those from us newspapers giving this a rating of 4 or 5 from 10. One of them suggests this is a film about nothing. Honestly, I know this is just one person's opinion, but they shouldn't be a film critic if they don't understand films.
  • ethanbresnett - 12 January 2023
    A film deserving of much more love
    Empire of Light is such a beautiful piece of cinema, oozing class, poignancy and power.

    The story follows Olivia Coleman's Hilary, who forms an unlikely bond with Micheal Ward's Stephen whilst working together at the Empire cinema in Margate.

    This style of story is right up my street. A mismatched pair who find solace and comfort in each other. It is beautifully done and packs in so many themes and different angles. I do think that some of the themes are dealt with in a bit of a ham-fisted way, and a bit more refinement would have been welcome but this is a relatively minor criticism. On the whole the story is very well crafted.

    The performances are top notch. Olivia Colman really shines and is pushed to the limit by the layers of her character. Micheal Ward is a more than worthy opposite for her with a great leading performance.

    With the cinematography in the hands of Roger Deakins the film was always going to be a visual treat. There is a melancholic majesty to the cinema set that Deakins captures which is gorgeous. As always he photographs the characters with such sympathy and feeling.

    To top it all off the soundtrack perfectly compliments the themes of the film and brings even more emotion to the piece.

    I'm surprised this film isn't getting more love as it really blew me away and has so much power and emotion to it. Empire of Light is a real triumph in my opinion.
  • afmartin-27954 - 2 January 2023
    Really Good Film
    You know with Mendes/Deakins you're getting the best, but Colman and Ward steal the show. I am perplexed by the lower reviews here with all the hot garbage that is released in cinema these days. God forbid a human being story is told as opposed to another explosion/action film or super hero movie. This one has incredible acting, storytelling and has obvious pertinent themes that ring as true today (unfortunately) as they would have 40 years ago. Mendes is up for best Director, Colman for best Actor and Ward for best supporting and it's easily in the running for film of the year. If you want glitz and flash with trendy crap, look elsewhere.
  • curtispeace - 13 December 2022
    This movie is a testament to the human spirit its beauty and flaws, yes, there is the brutality and uncomfort of racism which no doubt makes people turn away in denial like so many Americans who don't want to remember it and whine about being made to feel sad, yes!, these things DID happen, and we can never forget them lest we lose our very humanity, oh, and the story of mental illness which also brings a terrible feeling we also cannot deny, we cannot!, this film and the telling of it are intense and incredible, those criticizing it are sad unknowing people, not knowing greatness of who we all are, I am reminded of an African saying I read recently, something like 'I am because we are', "to getting back up", revel in this testament to our human spirit!, rave on, see the face of God in others!, do not turn away from anyone's suffering, find the good in everyone, for life is poetry, "begin afresh, afresh, afresh", peace and love!
  • ayoadems - 15 November 2022
    One of the worst films of the year
    I watched this film with a Q & A by the director himself (01/11/22) and wanted to love it. A story about a woman (tick) mental health and Racial Tensions in 80's Britain (tick) an an ode to cinema (tick).

    But it was one of the worst films I have watched this year. Incredibly disjointed, sloppy and cheating it's way through the running time. One of the most insulting things, actually, two of the most insulting things about this film aside from its tact on - paint by numbers pastiche - was the serious 'Exoticism' - right wing Len's played off as liberal arts. The second thing is it's central character unfulfilled characterisation and backstory related to the devastation on mental health. The lead (Olivia Coleman) gives a committed performance forging her performance forward despite the arbitrary writing. It's the same with the supporting cast, all historically incredible talents alongside Olivia, but you can see they are grappling with the script and their lack of character journeys - doing the best they can with a film that overplays its hand as a worthy themes but, frankly, lacks heart in every human way possible. It's like watching a bad - overhyped film school short film that is agonisingly long.

    Then, there are the very bad lines - very bad.

    At theQ&A event, Sam the writer/director called his film a story about 'Race' but the actual wording he is missing in his vocab is 'Racism'. It features racism in the story - arguably, it's the penultimate turning point for Michael's character it's not racial tension - but racisim and Sam had a problem saying this word. (Sidenpre: don't make a film about monumental themes, aiming for the glory, when you cannot stand by the work it's a waste of our viewing time and production time and money). But I have to say, Sam leans into a Len's that is embedded in exoticism and I found that troubling in this day and age. Also, the sex scenes from the jump were ill-timed, over-sensationalised and weakened the picture. Talk about relying on 'sex' to sell a film!!

    I think if Sam and his production company 'Neal Street' want to explore themes of monumental weight they should be braver about standing next to the picture they are promoting. Using language like 'Race' when they mean Racism - is weak, archaic and only proves to show their Lens is in the wrong material. And, I have to say the cinema acts as a silent character in the film. This is filmed beautifully (aesthetically) and there is no point being in denial about how much space and time 'the cinema' takes up as a character. It's better for Sam to own the subjects/themes being explored here then attempt to walk them back or worse still, play sloppy bbc journalist.

    Also, why did Sam feel he wanted and needed to tell this story? During the Q&A he dances around his mother's mental health which must have been tough as I suffer with MH myself. But he dances around this, and in the film just like his Q&A, the central character illness / condition is remarkably vague and mysterious but not on a cool way in a confused writer way so you don't settle into the film. Perhaps, here is bold thought, Sam and his production company should have made room for a more authentic director to tell this story or a writer. And here is even bolder thought, a woman should have made this film and a woman. It's not a story Sam Mendes should have made, and I think he and Neal Street know this - but they are going to do everything humanly possible to promote a film that was a waste of time and problematic. Did we expect anything less from someone who is still chasing the glory of cinema (Sam Mendes) and not the heart of great storytelling.

    Also, thank goodness Michael made any appearance in the Q&A - despite the patronising eyes, jests between Sam and Phillipa, this young man managed to breath some life into the stale, muddy, tone-deaf and underwhelming viewing experience. Can I get my 2 hours back please?