Coming to Bluray and DVD from writer-director Sam Mendes and Searchlight Pictures is the story of loss and love with EMPIRE OF LIGHT.
Hilary (Olivia Coleman) is the duty manager of the Empire Cinema in 1980 in Kent, England. Living alone she struggles with mental illness and is taken advantage of by her boss Donald Ellis (Colin Firth). Coming into work she meets Stephen (Michael Ward), a new employee who is thrilled to be working at the theatre.
She gets to know Stephen and hears his story of struggles and about his mother Delia (Tanya Moodie) who is a nurse. Hilary is less forthcoming about her mental illness and her time away from the theatre but still a relationship begins to happen between the two. Sharing as much time together as they can knowing that there could be problems.
The theatre is all a buzz when learning that the films Chariots of Fire would be opening there but it all becomes too much for Hilary. When she struggles, a secret is revealed and Hilary is once again struggling with her mental illness. Taking time away, Hilary eventually returns to work only to see Stephen attacked.
Now Hilary must decide what to do about her relationship with Stephen and where her life is going to go next.
Coleman as Hilary plays an insecure woman who hides behind it all with a bit of standoffishness. Co-workers are clearly understanding but others may not be so with the stigma of mental illness. Coleman is, once again, as lovely in this character as any actress could be. I have always admired her work and this film lends her talent with ease.
Ward as Stephen is a lovely young man with dreams of his own being held back his own fears and wanting to take care of his mother. Sharing his thoughts with Hilary are just so heartbreaking because his feelings are as relevant today as I’m sure they were in the 1980’s. Ward is the bright spot in Hilary’s life and Hilary is the holder of Ward’s secret dreams and together they are stunning.
Firth as Ellis is pretty disgusting which is hard for me to say because I so love Firth’s characters. Can’t exactly say ‘I love him in this role’ because this character absolutely made my skin crawl. So let me say that Firth gave this role the crawling it deserved. Moodie as Delia is a mother who wants what his best for her son, even if she knows that it will hurt him. That is the difficulty of being a Mom.
Other cast include Tom Brooke as Neil Crystal Clarke as Ruby, Jamie Whitlaw as Sean, Ron Cook as Mr. Cooper, Hannah Onslow as Janine, Monica Dolan as Rosemary Bates, Sara Steward as Brenda Ellis and Toby Jones as Norman.
Searchlight Pictures is responsible for such films as SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, THE SHAPE OF WATER and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI. They have an extensive film library as well as documentaries, scripted series, and limited series. For more information, please visit www.searchlightpictures.com.
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Bonus Feature includes Creating EMPIRE OF LIGHT – Go behind the scenes of this personal film with writer-director Sam Mendes, and uncover the story’s origins and the director’s love of cinema. See how the perfect location was found to rebuild a classic movie theatre that had the cast in awe.
EMPIRE OF LIGHT is a slow-paced film that is not really trying to lead you anywhere. What it seems to ask is that we all pay attention to these two people and look beyond what everyone else sees but instead, watch their journey. It is not always a pleasant thing to see but then again, these two people aren’t exactly living a life running through daisy fields with joy.
Mendes brings in a pace that is believable because enough of us know that everyday is not a busting existence but instead putting one foot in front of the other hoping to get somewhere different, somewhere that allows us to be who we are on the inside.
In the end – experience life!