Empire of Light by Sam Mendes [8/10]

A Sam Mendes film is always worth waiting for, and “Empire of Light” is a minor gem. It revolves around a gorgeous movie theater in a southern England coastal town, sumptuously filmed by Roger Deakins, Olivia Colman is unforgettable as a forty-something manager in the cinema, possessing a hidden flaw, who falls badly for a young black usher, wonderfully acted by Micheal Ward. Other delightful cast members include Toby Jones as the projectionist and Colin Firth in an uncharacteristic sleazy role as the manager. The film starts gently enough, but with a pulse clearly going somewhere, and a revelatory mid-movie plot twist tumbles the viewere into an entirely different film, one of intense pathos. Wonderfully evocative scenes of the times (the early 80s) round out a terrific viewing experience that lingers. Empire of Light presents itself as too mild to be significant but its carefully wrought undercurrents make for a fine film.

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