“People all over the world are hungry for peace of mind, for finding ways to improve their relationships with others, and for finding meaningful ways of life. A loving and generous kindness can certainly make a difference. Kindness, a precious God-given gift to us, is one of the sweet expressions of love.”
—- Jean Maalouf in The Healing Power of Kindness

The setting for this spiritually rich drama is an old movie palace in a once glorious seaside town which in 1981 has fallen upon hard times. Hilary (Olivia Colman) is the theatre’s duty manager. The Empire has been forced to close two of its four screens due to plummeting box office receipts.

Hilary lives alone and works very hard selling tickets, taking care of receipts, and cleaning up the auditorium after a show. Her co-workers include the projectionist Norman (Toby Jones) and assistants Neil (Tom Brooke), and Janine (Hannah Onslow). Mr. Ellis (Colin Firth) is an authoritarian boss who demands sexual favors from Hilary.

Hilary and Stephen with a hurt pigeon

When Stephen (Micheal Ward), a handsome young Black man, is hired, he and Hilary become friends. In a beautiful scene, we see how they are drawn together by sharing an act of kindness to a pigeon with a broken wing. Stephen knows what to do so that the bird retains its ability to fly.

The two friends are both seeking the same kind of freedom. As their relationship develops, tenderly heal each other. It turns out that she is battling schizophrenia and his spirit has been afflicted by racist violence which has shattered his dreams of attending college and becoming an architect.

“Giving, not because we have to, but for the sheer sake of giving, just out of love, is something really beautiful — out of this world! This kind of gratuitous goodness — a lavish kindness — makes our world a better place in which to live, and makes us better people.”
—- Jean Maalouf in The Healing Power of Kindness

Norman, the projectionist, and Hilary discuss the magic of movies.

Writer and director Sam Mendes sees movies as creations that can transform us, and as we listen to the Empire’s projectionist pay tribute to movies as miracles of light, we recall the same marvels in Cinema Paradiso and The Last Picture Show. Mendes also uses poems by Philip Larkin and W. H. Auden to reflect upon the impact of racist street violence when Margaret Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister.

“Everyone benefits from kindness. We are so deeply touched by it that we are transformed. In the holy of holies of our being, we feel connected, centered, involved, engaged, and deeply bonded to others, regardless of our divisions due to ideology, religion, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, economic status, or other factors. After all, we are all made of flesh, bones and blood. We belong to one human family. We all have the same basic needs. We are one, We ae whole. We are human together. We are in the same boat of destiny.”
—- Jean Maalouf in The Healing Power of Kindness

Sam Mendes who has been at the helm of an impressive array of imaginative films, many of them focusing on cultural developments: American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead, 1917, and Away We Go. Among this one’s outstanding features are the creative screenplay, outstanding cinematography by Roger Deakins, a superb performance by Olivia Coleman, and a breakthrough performance by Micheal Ward.