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Empire of Light, director Sam Mendes, starring Olivia Colman

Empire of Light

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A valentine to the movies from 1917 and Skyfall director Sam Mendes (here taking a solo screenplay credit for the first time), set in and around an English seaside cinema in the early 1980s. For Hilary (Olivia Colman), it’s not the most glamorous job in the world, shoveling popcorn and warmed over dogs for a dwindling number of punters, and sordid backroom fumblings with her manager (Colin Firth) don’t make her feel any better about herself. But when young, good-looking Stephen (Micheal Ward) joins the team, her outlook soon brightens. Indeed, the two of them forge an unexpectedly intense bond.

Colman must be odds-on favourite to make it four Academy Award nominations in five years for her deeply affecting and acutely nuanced portrait of an unhappy woman rediscovering her sense of joy. But there is another story going on here: Stephen is Black, and not likely to forget it in the racially entrenched and divisive surroundings of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain. Small wonder the lovers seek refuge in their dreams.

Master cinematographer (and Mendes regular) Roger Deakins conjures all his wizardry here, and the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score pulls everything together. Mendes has helmed a transformative movie.



Sam Mendes


Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Brooke

Country of Origin






119 min
Drama Romance

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