Empire of Light

1 hour, 53 minutes

Watch it for...

The nostalgic throwback to movie theaters of the 1980s, the gorgeous cinematography and incredible acting, and the surprising twist halfway through.


Olivia Coleman stars as Hillary Small in what starts out as an understated, moody film about a woman working in a British movie theater in the 1980s. Her days are quiet and simple, beginning with a walk on the seaside. She sells tickets, sweeps theaters, and peddles popcorn. And in the middle of each of these days, she has a very unsatisfying affair with her married boss, played brilliantly by Colin Firth. Midway through the movie, a new co-worker comes on the scene…and life for Hillary is dramatically changed. With stunning visuals, brilliant acting, and a compelling plot, Empire of Light is a movie you won’t soon forget.

Tracy's thoughts

I loved the mood of this movie from the first second. So very British and so very ‘80s – yes, please! I would have been perfectly happy if the entire film was about Hillary completing mundane tasks in a movie theater, but this movie took such an extraordinary tone shift halfway through and I was hooked! We’ve all seen the older man and younger woman trope a million times, and this turned it on its head with the glorious Olivia Coleman getting her kicks in with a younger guy.

I’m not the sort of movie-goer who often leaves the theater saying things like, “Wow, that cinematography was amazing,” but really, the cinematography in this film was amazing. As a lover of film and nostalgia, I especially loved the scenes detailing how a career-projectionist worked to pass on his fascinating trade to an apprentice who first had to earn his trust. The overarching plotline grabbed me, but it’s that kind of attention to detail that kept me thinking about the movie for days afterward.  

Find Empire of Light on HBO Max!