EMPIRE OF LIGHT
Released Monday 9 January
Synopsis: A romance develops in a beautiful old cinema on the south coast of England in the 1980s.
Cast: Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Colin Firth, Toby Jones
Director: Sam Mendes
FAB UK Review:
Beautifully directed and shot (at an old cinema in Margate, UK), Mendes’ film is a tribute to cinema and the art deco buildings that used to house them.
Colman plays middle to late aged Hillary as the cinema manager, while Ward (Top Boy, Small Axe), plays Stephen – a new employee at the cinema who Hillary takes under her wing. Hillary doesn’t have much in her life, just her job, and is engaged in a clandestine sexual romance with the owner of the cinema (a very good Colin Firth). But there is something about Stephen that Hillary finds alluring and attractive, and Stephen feels the same about her, somehow. Soon enough they fall into each others arms and have relations in the empty room that is on top of the cinema. But Stephen is only there short-term, he’s got big plans for his future, and a girl his age waiting in the background to be his girlfriend, and a mother who encourages him to leave the small town for bigger things.
Even though ‘Empire of Light’ will take your breathe away for its stunning oceanfront backdrop, the romance between Hillary and Stephen, which is the crux of the film, is not quite believable. Hillary is too dowdy and plain and we don’t quite believe that Stephen would fall into her arms when he can have the pick of any of the women in town. Mendes (American Beauty, 1917), should’ve chosen a more believable female star in this role (Kate Winslet would’ve been perfect), but nevertheless we are left with a stunning film with a plot that is just not believable.
FAB UK saw ‘Empire of Light’ at the London Film Festival.
Released Friday 13 January
Synopsis: M3GAN is a marvel of artificial intelligence, a lifelike doll that’s programmed to be a child’s greatest companion and a parent’s greatest ally. Designed by Gemma, a brilliant roboticist, M3GAN can listen, watch and learn as it plays the role of friend and teacher, playmate and protector. When Gemma becomes the unexpected caretaker of her 8-year-old niece, she decides to give the girl an M3GAN prototype, a decision that leads to unimaginable consequences.
Cast: Jenna Davis, Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Jen Van Epps, Brian Jordan Alvarez
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Released Friday 13 January
Synopsis: Renowned musician Lydia Tár is days away from recording the symphony that will elevate her career. When all elements seem to conspire against her, Lydia’s adopted daughter Petra becomes an integral emotional support for her struggling mother.
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant
Director: Todd Field
FAB UK Review:
Cate Blanchett is brilliant as conductor Lydia Tar (and just this week she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for this role), but at 158 minutes it’s a long slog to get from beginning to end.
Lydia is in a same sex relationship with a member of her Berlin orchestra – Sharon (Nina Hoss), and Lydia has total control of all the musicians and the staff, she makes all the hiring and firing decisions and can elevate anyone who she feels has earned it (and perhaps one that she might take a liking to). When Olga (Cellist Sophie Kauer, very very good in her first film role) joins the orchestra, it is a bit obvious to the everyone (and especially to Sharon) that Lydia is interested in Olga in reasons that are not professional, and has members of the orchestra raising their eyebrows. Things get worse for Lydia when a former member of the orchestra commits suicide and leaves a note with serious allegations against Lydia that risks her reputation, professional and personal life.
Blanchett is absolutely brilliant in her role, one of the best performances of her career (she already has two Oscars under her belt), and is a shoo-in for the Best Actress Oscar. But Tar the film is very slow, the first 70 minutes don’t amount to much, but after this the film kicks into high gear and the plot, and drama ramp up.
Director and Writer Todd Field brings us a great story that needed a bit tidying up, but it is a very good film and deserves all the kudos it has been nominated for, with Blanchett in center stage, in more ways than one.
By: Tim Baros