#TIFF22: “EMPIRE OF LIGHT”
By Amanda Gilmore
Set in the 1980s in a seaside town in England, Empire of Light follows Hilary (Olivia Colman) and Steven (Michael Ward) who work at The Empire picture house. Hilary has worked at the movie theatre for a long time, however, Steven is a new employee. The two share a connection and begin a relationship that changes them both.
Writer-Director Sam Mendes gives us a love letter to Cinema through the love story blossoming between his two characters. The Empire picture house is one we don’t often see anymore. For instance, it has the bright lights of a marquee on the outside. Inside, it looks more like a theatre rather than a cinema. This picture house, and the love story, is beautifully captured by the immense talent of revered Cinematographer Roger Deakins.
The Empire is the backdrop of the connection Hilary and Steven have. It’s one based on respect, care and empathy. The two are experiencing life differently. Hilary lives a repetitive, mundane life. Oh, and she’s never seen a movie before. While Steven has his whole life ahead of him and desires to go to college. As their relationship goes on, we notice that they are struggling with more than we thought.
Hilary has been dealing with mental health issues. She recently sought help and returned to work. However, she came off her medication and begins to relapse. Colman, once again, gives a breathtaking performance. Steven is dealing with racism and nationalism happening. He gets assaulted both verbally and physically. Ward is a revelation as the empathetic, patient Steven. Colman and Ward have undeniable chemistry. Although the audience is aware that this relationship won’t last due to their life experiences, we still root for them because the connection they share changes them both for the better.
Empire of Light screens as follows at TIFF ’22:
Mon, Sep 12 IN-PERSON at Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre at 3:00 pm
Tue, Sep 13 IN-PERSON at Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre at 3:00 pm
Sat, Sep 17 IN-PERSON at Royal Alexandra Theatre at 5:00 pm