Celebrate Sam Mendes' beautifully-crafted ode to cinemas, and people who work within them, at your museum of screen culture.
Once the pride of an English coastal town, the stunning art deco Empire cinema now sits in partial decline. Against the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher's not-so-United Kingdom circa 1981, cinema Duty Manager Hilary (Olivia Colman) has returned to work after struggling with her mental health. When the Empire's handsome, new usher Stephen (Micheal Ward) joins the team, the pair strike up an unexpected friendship and as they go about their working lives they're forced to confront forces both inside the cinema, and out.
Sam Mendes' follow-up to the awards-devouring 1917 (2019) trades the spectacle of frontline warfare for a quieter, but equally powerful reflection of homeland tensions simmering away. On the surface – and perhaps also at its heart – the film offers a love letter to cinema as a space for refuge and escape and there's a clear delineation between world inside the Empire and the sometimes harsh reality outside. However, the film's greater depths are to be found in the people who work within it, perhaps best illuminated by the performances of Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Toby Jones.
Empire of Light premiered at the 49th Telluride Film Festival and Roger Deakins received an Oscar nomination for his cinematography which we believe should to be experienced on the big screen.
– Reece Goodwin (Curator, Film & TV)
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