Only Lovers Left Alive (Review)


123 min

United Kingdom / Germany / Greece

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Stars: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska

Release Date: May 25, 2013 (Canned Film Festival) / April 11, 2014 (United States)

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton become a perfect pair of sophisticated vampires in Jim Jarmusch's latest genre deconstruction.

We're six years away from the vampire craze that Twlight sucked new life into and yet we're still neck-deep in the horror sub-genre. This year alone we have several more offerings to sink our fangs into, but the subject matter is growing cold fast. There's few things that would get me as excited for another vampire film as a pair of exciting actors in the lead roles and a renowned auteur at the helm and that's exactly what I saw when Only Lovers Left Alive appeared on the horizon at last year Cannes Film Festival.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play a married pair of phantoms of the night and they refer to each other knowingly as Adam and Eve. The film has a slow and steady start with the two actually living apart. Adam hides out in a Detroit apartment. He is a reclusive and depressed musician who has an oblivious errand boy played by Anton Yelchin bring him guitars and other necessities, but not blood. For that necessity Adam bravely ventures out after dark to visit Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) who is happy to receive money for the donations in his fridge. 

Eve has spent the last few years exploring the culture of Tangier, but she packs her bags (with lots of books and nothing else) and visits her husband of untold years. And not a minute too soon. As interesting as their everyday lives are to observe, the film gains all new life when Hiddleston and Swinton are together. It's impressive when some onscreen couples feel like they've been together for years, but how about centuries? Their chemistry is their antiquity and their familiarity with one another. Yes, they were living on opposite sides of the globe, but you can see why they can afford to when they have forever to live.

Only Lovers Left Alive is unlike any vampire movie I have ever seen. There's no gang of hunters or rival clan to fight off (though Eve's little sister played by Mia Wasikowska raises some familial hell during her visit). There's only conversations that allude to their time on Earth as they cope with their most serious of side effects: longevity. What is it like to see everyone pass away, technology march forward and societies evolve? There's time travel movies and then there's those who have simply been around long enough to have left their mark on history and maybe on a few necks along the way.

The film comes to us from Jim Jarmusch, a key figure in independent cinema since his 1980 film Permanent Vacation. He's put his own unique spins on the Western and Samurai genres and continues that trend today. Jarmusch's work isn't for everybody. His films takes their sweet time and the characters deliver their lines in a unusual and sometime unclear manner. For some this will be Only Lovers Left Awake, but if the premise sounds refreshing and the talent involved promising, that's because it is. The lore goes deep and the title becomes realized before the perfect ending.

I just feel like all the sand is at the bottom of the hour glass or something.
— Adam