Empire of Light

Stephen and Hilary on the roof of the cinema

Margate on the south coast of England is one of many British seaside towns that’s seen better days. So has its cinema, Wonderland, here renamed by Sam Mendes and his team as the Empire, for a story set in 1980 about people who’ve seen better days, a country too, perhaps. Britain once had an empire of its own, of course. Metaphor and symbolism hang heavy in Empire of Light and affect every aspect of it. In the opening sequences cinematographer Roger Deakins’s camera mooches balefully about the interior of this palace of plush. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score weeps. This place isn’t in good shape. Bits are roped off, a whole floor … Read more

Lovers Rock

At the party

Lovers Rock is the second in the sequence of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series of films for the BBC, stories from the frontline of the West Indian immigrant experience in the UK. Unlike its predecessor, Mangrove, which featured Letitia Wright, and Red, White and Blue, its successor, which starred John Boyega, Lovers Rock is not speckled with big names and would be bent out of shape if it were. It’s a “day in the life” kind of affair, bookended by Martha (Amarah-Jae St Aubyn) climbing out of her bedroom window on a Saturday evening and eventually winding up back in her bed just in time for her mother to bang on her door … Read more

Blue Story

Stephen Odubola and Micheal Ward

Scrappy but powerful, Blue Story is also known as the film that got briefly banned by some UK cinema chains, because some people going to see it were arriving armed to the teeth. “Blue Story, a violent gangster movie, made by the BBC,” is how one British newspaper, never happier than when playing the race card and trashing the “woke” BBC, described the film in its reporting on the violent skirmishes at Star City, Birmingham, when the film opened. What was doubly unfortunate, from the film’s perspective, is that the other film showing that day was Frozen II, so the kids lining up to see that got a lot more than they bargained … Read more