Corn Exchange Cinema Review

Empire of Light

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

Set in a run down cinema on the sea front in Margate in 1981, the story revolves round the lives of its disparate staff and the managers hopes for a boost to trade as the cinema has been chosen for the premiere of the film Chariots of Fire; David Putnam the director lives close by – why its was even thought Lawrence Olivier might attend. But this is no cosy nostalgia fest, but instead in quick succession deals with racism, sexism in the workplace, sexual abuse, mental illness and loneliness in unflinching detail; its almost too much to take in in one film!

However the employees form a strange sort of supporting family, working together as a buffer against the oily and offensive cinema manager, played by Colin Firth. There is a lovely role for Toby Jones as the rather nerdy projectionist, but the standout performance is surely Olivia Coleman as the damaged and lonely Hilary, who finds some solace and peace from an unlikely source, after a particularly bleak episode.

A very moving film with some difficult scenes, but well worth going to see for the acting alone.