Empire of Light (2022)
Empire of Light, director Sam Mendes’ ninth feature and his first as the sole screenwriter, is set in the waning months of 1980 in the English seaside town of Margate. The tale focuses on a palatial two-screen Art Deco movie palace full of the quirky cast of characters that always populate cinemas in most “behold the magic of the movies” movies. There’s the projectionist (Toby Jones, Infamous) who waxes poetic about persistence of vision, the slimy boss Mr. Ellis (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech), punk-rock ticket-taker Janine (Hannah Onslow), pencil-necked assistant Neil (Tom Brooke, The Death of Stalin), and even a whole fascinating wing of the place that’s been closed off to customers.
Speaking as Tampa’s Majestic Movie Palace, it’s true to life. We do, as an industry, tend to attract the quirky.
But Empire is more than just a love song to the power of film. The story of lonely, workaholic part-time manager Hilary (Olivia Colman, The Favourite) and her relationship with her newest trainee Stephen (Micheal Ward, The Old Guard) as it blossoms into something joyous and life-affirming, it’s also a poignant and sharp-witted examination of political and racial attitudes in Thatcherite Britain. Packed with vivid, bloody-raw performances and filled out with potent, powerful cinematography and music by Trent Reznor, Empire of Light is a compelling drama about the power of human connection during turbulent times.