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Empire of Light

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United Kingdom, United States · 2022
1h 55m
Director Sam Mendes
Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Toby Jones, Colin Firth
Genre Drama, Romance

Workaholic manager Hilary oversees a seaside cinema while struggling with bipolar disorder. Her life begins to change when a quiet romance unfolds with Stephen, the optimistic new employee. Set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, this poignant drama explores the power of human connection during your darkest times.

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What are critics saying?


IndieWire by David Ehrlich

It’s wonderful that Mendes spent the pandemic making a movie about the irreplaceable vitality of movie theaters — even going so far as to paint them as one of the final strings in what’s left of our social fabric. It would have been even better if he spent the pandemic making a movie worth seeing in one.


Screen Daily by Fionnuala Halligan

Empire Of Light is a sentimental film – the piano-heavy score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross advertises that from the opening bars – but its message of love, tolerance and finding family wherever you can should make an impact in darkened rooms wherever it plays.


The Playlist by Gregory Ellwood

Despite Deakins and Mendes’ shorthand in framing gorgeous images, there are moments, especially in the second act, where the film could simply use a bit more energy. Luckily, for Mendes, Colman provides it soon after and when the movie needs it most.


Los Angeles Times by Justin Chang

While Colman peels back Hilary’s layers of grief and rage with all the ferocity and subtlety you’d expect from an actor of her caliber, even she can’t sell the joyfully beaming pivot required of her in an interminable sequence in which Empire of Light essentially becomes the ’80s equivalent of Nicole Kidman’s AMC commercial.


Entertainment Weekly by Leah Greenblatt

Colman, her eyes darting between hope and devastation, is so lit-up and specific (and funny, a quality that doesn't seem to get mentioned enough) that she lifts nearly every scene.


Total Film by Neil Smith

As terrific as Colman is, however, the film around her has a schematic and engineered quality not too dissimilar from Jones’ prized projectors.


The Guardian by Peter Bradshaw

Empire of Light is a sweet, heartfelt, humane movie, which doesn’t shy away from the brutality and the racism that was happening in the streets outside the cinema.


Variety by Peter Debruge

In the era when content is king, Sam Mendes still believes in moving pictures. Empire of Light is the proof.


TheWrap by Tomris Laffly

Empire of Light feels more like a sweet experiment on nostalgia and memory than an articulate film with something to say.

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