Following his BAFTA Best Film winner 1917, Sam Mendes returns with this majestic, personal work, set in a 1980s English coastal town.
Hilary (Olivia Colman) manages a seafront picture palace. Once an opulent multiscreen cinema with a dance hall overlooking the sea, now only one screen remains open, albeit a grand one. In preparation for a regional premiere of Chariots of Fire, Hilary and her colleagues – played by a heavyweight ensemble that includes Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Tom Brooke and Micheal Ward – spruce up the venue. Outside, the town itself is crumbling, with a rising far-right presence and Stephen (Ward) regularly harassed by skinheads. Mendes delivers a stirring ode to the cinema – as a space for collective experience, offering the pleasures and balms of watching films in darkness together.
Alongside regular producer Pippa Harris, Mendes collaborates with an outstanding and mostly British creative team, including legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, designer Mark Tildesley, editor Lee Smith and casting director Nina Gold. Together, they craft a vivid, tactile sense of 1980s Britain. With Colman and Ward magnificent at the heart of the film, Empire of Light is an elegant exploration of the potential of both community and cinema to help us find light in the darkness
Screening as part of our year-long season - CINEMA ON SCREEN