Film Review: ‘Empire of Light’
Movies

Film Review: ‘Empire of Light’

Olivia Colman in ‘Empire of Light.’ Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Though they were both swirling in their writer/director’s minds before the pandemic hit, it’s hard not to see Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans” and Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light” partly as a reaction to theaters being closed for so many months. locked.

And while Spielberg takes a semi-autobiographical approach to channeling his love of watching (and making) movies, Mendes seems more motivated by the impact he has on those who may need encouragement. And about troubled people finding each other.

The setting for the director’s latest ‘1917’ is the chilly and windswept English seaside town of Margate, home to one of the Empire’s cinema chains. There, a small staff screens the latest releases for the local community.

This old-school movie palace is in disrepair, all parts locked and some exposed to the elements, its glory days behind it. The same can be said for some of the staff, though in the case of burnt-out manager Hilary (Olivia Colman), the question is whether she ever saw the glory days from the start.

cast of "Kingdom of Light.'

Cast of “Empire of Light”. Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Returning to work after living in a local mental health facility and facing little sympathy or understanding from her doctors, she only tries to hold it in while taking back an ill-advised affair with the boring but authoritative Donald Ellis (Colin Firth). , in arrogant mode).

Surrounding him is a group of employees, including veteran projector Norman (Toby Jones), ambitious assistant manager Neil (Tom Brooke) and disgruntled candy maker Janine. After the firing, their lineup swells with Stephen (Micheal Ward), an enthusiastic young black worker with a love for music, who immediately catches the attention of Janine and, on a deeper level, Hilary.

Soon, Hilary and Stephen are sharing snacks and sexual encounters in the upper echelons of an unused movie theater, where the formerly posh bar area is now home to roosting pigeons (Stephen saves one in a slightly widened parable for his relationship with Hilary).

Despite coming from very different backgrounds and with very contrasting life experiences. United by a shared love of music, cinema and figuring out their problems––struggled by manic depression, he deals with racism every day in 1980s England, where the fascist Nationalist Front is beginning to assert its power.

Olivia Colman and Sam Mendes on the set of the movie 'Empire of the Light.'

(Left to Right) Olivia Colman and Sam Mendes on the set of the movie ‘Empire of the Light.’ Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Mendes and legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins let their cameras linger and rest, eschewing overly flashy visuals in favor of beautiful moments that help the cast tell the story. And the watery sunlight from the coastal town also helps tint the film a suitably gray hue, cut by the cinema’s fireworks and neon lights as the film is about to be screened for its “big” premiere.

It goes without saying that Colman is as good as ever. Fragile and reserved at first, though hiding that side with a forced cheerful facade, she slowly unravels as the swirling emotional stress and years of trauma start to take her life.

Yet he is matched for defeat by Ward, who offers a sensitive and charismatic portrayal of a young man still searching for his place in a world where he is not always accepted. Despite his initial affinity with Janine, Stephen lights up around Hillary, and Ward plays him to the punch.

Firth strips away the charm that usually wears off the more stilted characters he plays––while you can see why Hillary might be swayed by him, he’s basically a power-loving asshole who gets mad when he sees her while he’s out for dinner with his wife who doesn’t. aware.

Toby Jones and Olivia Colman in 'Empire of Light.'

(Left to Right) Toby Jones and Olivia Colman in ‘Empire of Light.’ Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh, Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Around them, the rest of the employees are an engaging, if slightly archaic ensemble: Janine as the punky rebel, skinny Neil the fun-loving type, Norman gruff but good-natured. And then there’s the clientele, an assortment of quirky filmmakers, some who require a bit of a push toward the rules (like finishing your food before walking into the theatre) and others who prove to be more hateful than the staff might have anticipated. .

‘Empire of Light’ is mostly a quiet drama punctuated by surging moments, including Hillary’s stage storm moment at the premiere to reveal some truths and make some noise, and her final disbandment.

But if Mendes’ real goal was to celebrate the power of cinema to lift you up, he’s faltering a bit here. Much of that weight goes to Jones’ projector character, who has a monologue explaining how his beloved machines work and what abilities they project to uplift the heart. It can be a little distracting at times, and the actual act of watching the film is a sidenote to the end of the film.

The director also doesn’t seem to know exactly where he wants to end his film, some natural conclusion springing up and sliding before the emotional punch of the actual finale.

asked Moodie in 'Empire of Light.'

asked Moodie in ‘Empire of Light.’ Given by Spotlight Image. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

The late act of racist violence, while locked in early in the story, also feels out of place, the focus of the plot being divided into subplots that say little about race relations in Britain at the time and are locked in by awkward scenes. between Hillary and Stephen’s mother Delia, played by Tanya Moodie. At least it gives us more insight into Stephen’s personal life.

And none of his troubles were enough to drag the ‘Empire of Light’ into darkness. It’s a thoughtful, reflective, and often beautiful film bolstered by its superb central performance and an evocative trip back to the 1980s (both good and bad) that are likely to evoke feelings of nostalgia even if you didn’t grow up in the city. little England.

With fewer self-conscious images of the director’s past than ‘The Fablemans’, ‘Empire of Light’ offers a dark charm and emotional grit of its own.

‘Empire of Light’ received 4 out of 5 stars.

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman in the movie 'Empire of Light.'

(Left to Right) Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman in the movie ‘Empire of Light.’ Given by Spotlight Image. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

Related posts

There is something bothering Alice. She’s underwater watching

Mondy

Jonathan Krisel Directs ‘Pokemon: Detective Pikachu’ Sequel

mugen

How Far Is Saw Gerrera Willing to Go for the Rebellion?

Sampoerna