top of page


Empire of Light doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be and on the few instances it does start to get interesting, a cliché script and bad editing let the film down.

Empire of Light is a film about a small-scale movie theatre in decline until it suddenly becomes a film about first mental issues, then racial violence and finally about ... well, I don't know exactly. And that proves to be the picture's downfall.

Director Sam Mendes' first solo screenplay contains a lot of themes but none of them is worked out in detail. You feel that he wants to convey some profound personal memories that he never manages to articulate clearly in a script filled with clichés and lacking emotional coherence.

The period detail of early eighties Britain is wonderful in Empire of Light, most magnificently in the recreation of the central movie theatre. Yet cinematographer Roger Deakens fails to catch the magic through his lens and the actors are curiously stilted, as though they are constrained by earnestness.

To boot, the one thing Empire of Light needed to be successful is missing: the genuine transformative power of the movie experience. Mendes tries to smuggle that message into the third act, but it feels forced because despite its setting nothing in Empire of Light seems remotely connected to how movies can shape lives.

release: 2022

director: Sam Mendes

starring: Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Toby Jones, Colin Firth


bottom of page