Empire of Light – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Empire of Light – A Shine of Personal Growth: This is Cinema

We look onward with a gaze of hope.  In the presence of daily routines, there is a certain thread we tug to feel something honest and true.  Those amazing thoughts can turn monotony into joyous moments.  The genuine touch is hard to come by, even in film.  In this latest review, I look at an indie film that tugs those strings in a simple tale.  A journey of character moments in a familiar genre, Empire of Light becomes a beacon of cinema for the heart.

This is a tale of turbulent times and wholesome connections.  Set during the early 1980s in a coastal British town, two people will discover how cinema can be, a bright light of new beginnings.  On the surface, the outline builds an appeal of moments through the onset of a coming-of-age genre.  In the first act, we meet Hilary (Olivia Colman), a middle-aged woman who works at a small cinema-plex, ran by Donald Elis (Colin Firth).  Through a slow methodical approach, the filmmakers build up the character through her day-to-day routines.  Each scene provides a general onlook of ‘who is’ Hilary.  She is a woman that lives a simple life but comes across as having personal issues.  Once we have a general purview of Hilary, the film shifts its focus towards the second character, Stephen (Micheal Ward), who Donald hires him to fill in a vacant position.  With his introduction, he slowly ingrains himself with the cast of misfits (at the theater), including an interesting bond with Hilary.  Through conversational moments, their relationship slowly morphs from trainer/trainee to a wholesome connection of friendship.  Once their bond becomes center stage, this leads into a second act that lifts the generalization of setting into a character focus journey.  Within each scene, moments turn into emotional fervor of confessional monologues, character reflection and layers of societal strife.  The abstract nature of their connection within the setting (early 1980s Britain), provides context to their own personal issues.  This leads to an overall layering of societal pressures on individuality and acceptance.  When certain things become known, their bond is put to the test through cliché moments.  Even when there is a shaky use of convenient plot devices, each event continues to build up relativity in the idea of personal growth.    

With each moment of hardship, Stephen and Hilary find themselves reflecting on the uncertainty of their relationship.  As things become an obvious obstacle, it leads to an array of characterized motifs driven by Olivia and Micheal’s performances.  Through the raw emotional look at human frailty, the ominous falls to the shining light, reflecting on ‘who they are’ as people in this everyday setting of working at the cinema.  After a series of genre focused build up, this leads into a third act of the typical conclusive reflection climax found in any coming-of-age film.  Empire of Light is a journey that threads coming-of-age themes through wholesome of a relationship.  If you are a fan of character driven journeys or coming-of-age films, this is one for you.  I say this would be an enjoyable time as a Matinee.   

Full Score – 3.5 out of 5 (Matinee)

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