Review by Norman Quarrinton
Stars Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin,
Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, Slimane Dazi, Carter Logan,
Cody Stauber, Ali Amine, Yasmine Hamdan
Written by Jim Jarmusch
Certification UK 15 | US R
Runtime 123 minutes
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Vampire movies are like carbon emissions: the planet doesn't want any more of them, but screw the planet – it's getting them anyway. Unlike our planet, however, the vampire genre is not yet doomed, and Jarmusch is here to bring it back from the dead. Imagine being in love with the same person for centuries. Actually, don't – that’s a horrible thought and it will poison your soul. Luckily, Jamusch has imagined it for you in his 2013 Palme d'Or nominated vampire flick, Only Lovers Left Alive.
Swinton and Hiddleston star as Adam and Eve, a pair of married, yet separated, vampires who have loved one another for hundreds of years. The reason for their separation is a mystery, although an unimportant mystery that we are never made privy to. Adam is a reclusive rocker with a passion for all things retro. He shuns new technology, and its very existence seems to depress him. He resides in a rundown Detroit neighbourhood, and his only friend is a guy named Ian (Yelchin). Meanwhile, Eve is in Tangier with an old friend, the famous writer and old nemesis of Bill Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe (Hurt). Eventually Adam and Eve are reunited, and what follows is an episodic sequence of events. We see them fight and we see them argue. We see them care for each other and we see them reminiscing about centuries past. Then Eve's troubled sister, Ava (Wasikowska) arrives and tensions begin to rise once again.
Wasikowska's role is fleeting but memorable, as are the rest of the supporting cast members. Yelchin is solid, and Hurt is brilliantly barmy, as always. Even Wright shows up to steal a couple of scenes with a wacky but refreshing performance. But it's the leads that sell it. Swinton and Hiddleston's chemistry is so flagrant that it's almost overpowering and makes all other aspects of the film's design difficult to notice.
The script, written by Jamusch himself, is witty and intricate. It's full of references that will give the history and literature nerds a neck ache as they nod in approval. The humour is deadpan to say the least, but this only adds to the film's absorbing vibe. It's so chilled-out and refreshing, that watching it is almost like having some sort of hands free massage. Or maybe that's just me, I should lay off the booze.
Only Lovers Left Alive is not a film about breaking up. It's not even a film about getting back together. It isn't really "about" anything, but that's part of its allure. It never tries to trick us into thinking otherwise, which is why it works. It's short on narrative, like many of Jamusch's films, but not to the point that it becomes annoying. Interesting characters and a laid-back tone do enough to make it more than watchable, but I suspect fans of the Twilight franchise will find very little to excite them.