Empire of Light is a stunning movie that, although can miss the mark occasionally throughout, features a shining cast that holds the movie up.
Olivia Coleman’s performance as Hilary Small, a deputy manager at the Empire Cinema, shines throughout as well as Michael Wards’ as Stephen, the love interest.
Her character, a woman struggling with mental illness, is nothing less than remarkable, as always, as she leads her character through a journey of love, a relapse in mental health, and recovery.
The movie’s cinematography was beautiful the entire movie, with every shot bringing to mind the cinematography from movies such as the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which to me is the most gorgeous movies I’ve watched.
However, there were a lot of themes in the movie, that meant some subjects suffered neglect.
I believe the age-gap theme was overlooked a lot within the movie, with it being mentioned occasionally, but not in a context I expected.
What stood out was Hilary thinking Stephen was embarrassed of her age, but no mention of the slight power dynamic in the relationship as she was his boss.
Racism is a major matter all the way through, with one scene really standing out.
The scene shows the National Front passing the cinema before breaking in and targeting Stephen, the only black person there, before beating him up and leaving him hospitalised, and solidifying the fact racism was more rampant than Hilary knew.
Hilary discovering that racism is still a very prominent issue in the 1980s and in Thatcher’s England seems unrealistic to some but mimics modern day life where many unaffected by such a problem do not see bigotry around them as they aren’t looking for it.
Instead, they’re overlooking it as they don’t know what it looks like until a very obvious hate crime is committed in their presence, such as the National Front members beating up Stephen, because he’s black.
Sam Mendes’ attempt at portraying mental illness was one I can’t say too much on as I am no expert on schizophrenia.
I believe it to be an accurate portrayal as we see Hilary lose interest in her everyday life, avoid people, and become slightly delusional at points like when she interrupts a premier of Chariots of Fire.
I also have to say when Hilary is talking about their distain for men, the lighting is expertly done, with parts becoming jarring as she leans forward and the lighting creates shadows that mimic those of children in movies telling scary stories.
The movie, overall, was one I thoroughly enjoyed, especially paired with constantly beautiful shots and devastating and phenomenal performances all around.