Run time: 113 mins
Sam Mendes’ very own entry in the “love letter to the movies” genre is a poignant, wonderfully acted, not to mention stunningly shot drama about love, life and films.
Hilary (Olivia Colman) manages the Empire cinema on the Margate seafront in 1981, just as Britain swan-dives into recession, unemployment and widespread racism. The people who work at this cinema are like her family with a grumpy and pompous manager, Mr Ellis (Colin Firth), dedicated projectionist Norman (Toby Jones) and assistants Neil (Tom Brooke) and Janine (Hannah Onslow). But it’s the arrival of Stephen (Michael Ward) who injects love, and eventually conflict, into Hilary’s existence.
Empire of Light – which was selected for this year’s anniversary preview – is a soothingly beautiful film, albeit bittersweet — visually pleasing, emotionally rich, and authentically touching when it comes to Hilary and Stephen’s evolving relationship. Yet the film has a sad story to tell, one that touches on mental illness, sexual exploitation, and racist violence. Perhaps it could have benefited from less sentimentality and self-importance, but it remains a cinematic treat, and one perfectly suited for The Rex