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New Movie on HBO: EMPIRE OF LIGHT

by Jef Dinsmore
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Movies_EmpireOfLight-203x300New movies are still just trickling in piecemeal. Here is the latest – EMPIRE OF LIGHT. It is the Saturday night premiere on HBO for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18, but has been on HBO Max for a week now. Catch it streaming or on the channel if you get it.  

The Searchlight Pictures release is a 2022 British romantic drama film directed, written, and co-produced by Sam Mendes. Set in an English coastal town in the early 1980s, the film is about the power of human connection during turbulent times. It stars Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Monica Dolan, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth.

Hilary Small (Colman) works as a manager at the “Empire Cinema”, Margate, on the north coast of Kent, England. She struggles with bipolar disorder, lives alone, and has been prescribed lithium to aid her. A new employee at the cinema, Stephen (Ward), a Black Brit lives with his mother Delia (Moody) who works as a nurse. Hilary and Stephen establish a working relationship that grows into a friendship. He ends up being there for her when a scandal, of which we won’t reveal here, rattles her mental state and she is in turn there for him when racial tensions mount. Firth plays the cinema owner, Donald Ellis and Jones is the projectionist there, Norman.

As that solid trailer attests this movie is a burst of color, emotion, and style and a crowd-pleaser at film festivals around the world. Due to the master craft of Movies_EmpireOfLight-pic1Roger Deakins, the film has a Best Cinematography nomination at this year’s Oscars and the music is strong due to Trent Reznor. But to be fair, the critics don’t say it is as lush as the cinematography makes it look. The Times-Picayune says, “Although [it] is an undeniably beautiful movie, with undeniably beautiful things to say, it’s also something of a beautiful bore, one of those films that feels distinctly like it was made more for the filmmaker than for his audience.” The Times (UK) states, “The performances are affecting across the board, but we knew that Mendes was good with actors. We’re less accustomed to seeing him as a writer… His plotting can be formulaic and some of the dialogue falls rather flat.” But RogerEbert.com wrote, “Empire of Light never entirely coheres, but it’s worth seeing for the power of Colman’s lead performance and the expertly judged backup acting and Empire Magazine says, “At its best, it is genuinely evocative, and while the script is patchy, it also wisely leaves the camera — plus Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ delicate, pensive score — to do a lot of the talking.” 

So, is it worth your time for the camera work and Colman alone? Should Mendes stick to directing, I mean after all he has given us American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Skyfall, and 1917?  

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  • Sat, Feb 18 – 8:00 pm EST – HBO
  • Sat, Feb 18 – 8:00 pm EST – HBO LATINO
  • Tue, Feb 21 – 9:40 pm EST – HBO 2
  • Wed, Feb 22 – 10:00 pm EST -HBO SIGNATURE
  • Thu, Feb 23 – 8:00 pm EST – HBO
  • Thu, Feb 23 – 10:55 pm EST – HBO LATINO
  • Tue, Feb 28 -9:45 pm EST – HBO 2
  • Fri, Mar 03 – 9:00 pm EST -HBO SIGNATURE
  • Tue, Mar 07 – 8:00 pm EST-HBO
  • Tue, Mar 07 – 8:00 pm EST – HBO LATINO

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