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Starring: Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Toby Jones, Colin Firth
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Romantic drama written and directed by Sam Mendes. Empire of Light (2022) follows Hilary (Olivia Colman) and Stephen (Micheal Ward), as romance develops between them in a beautiful old cinema in an English seaside town in the early 1980s.
Neil: [as they’re cleaning the movie theater] What’s the worst thing you’ve found? Anything interesting?
Hilary: Dead body. Had a heart attack during Smokey and the Bandit. Took three people to move him.
Janine: Bloody hell.
Neil: Well, that’s killed the mood.
Hilary: I do feel a bit numb, I suppose.
Dr. Laird: Well, I’m sure that’ll wear off as soon as you get used to the lithium. It’s marvelous stuff.
Donald Ellis: So, Stephen here will be replacing Trevor, who was never here anyway. So, he’s already off to a flying start.
Hilary: You’ll have to do final cleanup if you’re on late shift. Make sure to check for sleepers.
Hilary: Yes. One chap used to bring in an air mattress.
Stephen: What a place.
Hilary: It really was beautiful.
Stephen: It still is. Another world.
Hilary: It’s unprofessional! Impersonating the customers, laughing behind their backs! People come here for a nice time, not to be laughed at!
Stephen: Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.
Hilary: Good. Just don’t laugh at people.
Hilary: [as he’s kissing her] Stop.
Donald Ellis: Why? Who’s this hurting?
Hilary: Well, your wife, for one.
Donald Ellis: She has no idea.
Hilary: Doesn’t mean it’s right.
Hilary: How awful to feel watched.
Stephen: Yeah, sometimes.
Stephen: I’m not really a fan of New Year’s Eve, anyway. Last year, I puked on my new shoes.
Hilary: Oh, no! What happened to them?
Stephen: They survived.
Hilary: [as the hear the church bells ringing on the roof, from Tennyson] Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, the flying cloud and the frosty light. The year is dying in the night. Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Hilary: [referring to him wanting to study Architecture] Well, you can’t just give up. Stephen, don’t let them tell you what you can and can’t do. No one is going to give you the life you want. You have to go out and get it. You can’t stay here.
Stephen: [as they watch the pigeon they helped fly away] There he goes.
Hilary: To be able to fly.
Stephen: [after he’s been mistreated by a customer] Look, Hilary, I know you’re trying to help, but you’re just making it worse.
Hilary: How am I making worse?
Stephen: By pretending it isn’t there.
Hilary: I really don’t know what you’re talking about.
Stephen: Alright. Put it this way. He’s not just angry, is he? And he should be the one to leave. Not me.
Stephen: [referring to the projectors] I had no idea they’d be so big.
Norman: Well, that’s just as it should be. You don’t want people to know. They should just see a beam of light. But back here, it’s belts, straps, pulleys, intermittents, sprockets. Complex machinery.
'Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, the flying cloud and the frosty light. The year is dying in the night. Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.' - Hilary (Empire of Light) Click To Tweet
Norman: [referring to the projector] That’s the carbons. Spark between the carbons makes the light. And nothing happens without light.
Norman: It is amazing. Because it’s just static frames, with darkness in between. But there’s a little flaw in your optic nerve, so that if I run the film at twenty-four frames per second, you don’t see the darkness. It’s called the Phi Phenomenon. Viewing static images rapidly in succession creates an illusion of motion. An illusion of life.
Hilary: [as she’s changing behind the bushes] Look the other way.
Stephen: Why? I’ve seen it all.
Hilary: Don’t be vulgar. It’s different in the throes of passion.
Hilary: God, you men, you always have to help us. Always have to instruct us.
Neil: Hilary, I know it’s none of my business, but perhaps it might be better to leave your personal life at home.
Neil: Rather than upstairs, in the, you know, in the pigeon coop.
Hilary: I don’t know what you mean.
Neil: Oh, come on. Look, be careful. Hils, remember what happened before. Just look after yourself.
'No one is going to give you the life you want. You have to go out and get it.' - Hilary (Empire of Light) Click To Tweet
Stephen: [referring to their relationship] Once people know it, it’s different.
Stephen: Yeah. It’s just, it feels different.
Hilary: You’re embarrassed. Of course you are. It’s silly. It’s ridiculous. What were we thinking?
Stephen: I’m not embarrassed, Hilary. I just don’t think we can do this.
Hilary: No, you’re absolutely right.
Hilary: Tonight is a special night. More than ever, we need to feel part of a community. Black or white, it doesn’t matter. It’s a very important thing. We must celebrate. So, to mark the occasion, I’d like to read a poem I think would be appropriate. It’s by W. H. Auden. “The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews. Not to be born is the best for man, the second best is a formal order, the dance’s pattern. Dance while you can. Dance, dance, for the figure is easy, the tune is catching and will not stop. Dance till the stars come down from the rafters. Dance, dance, dance till you drop.”
Donald Ellis: Hilary, what do you think you’re doing? You were not invited to speak.
Hilary: Well, it can’t be all men droning on.
Donald Ellis: You knew what this meant to me, Hilary. You more than anyone. Yet, you willfully try to ruin it.
Hilary: Well, I’m terribly sorry. But you can’t always have it your own way!
Donald Ellis: Well, you’ve got a problem. You know that? You need serious help. Now, we’ve all tried to help you here, but at some point you need to take responsibility for your own…
Hilary: And why don’t you go and f*** yourself!
Hilary: “To f*** or not to f***, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the minds to w**k him off into his teacup, or let him f*** me over his desk and spoil all his paperwork?”
Brenda Ellis: Is this true? Donald, is this true?
Neil: Yes. Yes, it’s true.
'The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews. Not to be born is the best for man, the second best is a formal order, the dance's pattern. Dance while you can.' - Hilary (Empire of Light) Click To Tweet
Donald Ellis: What the hell are you doing?
Hilary: Telling the truth. What a novel idea!
Donald Ellis: That’s not the truth. I’ll tell you the truth. You’re a schizophrenic. You’re a f***ing nutter! And the only reason you’re working here is because I told the social workers I’d keep an eye on you. You’re unemployable.
Neil: [after revealing that Ellis has called social services to take Hilary] I’m not sure how much help you can be.
Stephen: Well, I can’t just turn my back on her. Leave her on her own. I can’t.
Stephen: [to Hilary] But I just need to say this. What you’re going through is a medical condition, it’s an illness. And I wanted to make sure that you understand that it’s not your fault.
Hilary: [to Stephen] Look at your little face! You think I’m mad, don’t you? But I am absolutely sane. This has all been planned. I’ve been lying in wait for them all this time. All these people, all these men, they will have their comeuppance, just you see!
Hilary: I’m the only one who knows the truth. Do you understand me? I’m the only one!
Stephen: I just want to help.
Hilary: You don’t get it, do you? I don’t want your f***ing help! I am not your patient! I am not some problem to be solved!