Only Lovers Left Alive

Released: 2013
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Distributor: Soda Pictures
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasilkowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin
Genre: Vampire/Romantic
Film Rating: 15
Review Rating: 4.5/5

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are lovers, they have been for centuries. They know each other. Adam’s passion is music, Eve’s is books. This evening they wake up in different cities, Adam is in Detroit, Eve is in Tangier, but Eve knows something is amiss. Adam is suffering badly from ennui. He is bored, listless and becoming detached from the world. He is releasing music through a mortal, Ian (Anton Yelchin), who gets him the things he needs, buys him interesting instruments, keeps the fans from his house. Adam has asked Ian to get him a bullet, but with the shot made from the hardest wood that he can find. Eve hurries to be with Adam and manages to improve his mood. At this point their sister, Ava (Mia Wasilowska), arrives and disturbs their peaceful world. Adam and Eve are careful, Ava is not. Ava presses them to go out and they go to a club, where they run into Ian. They all go back to Adam and Eve’s, Adam and Eve go to bed, Ava stays up with Ian. Ava drains Ian, and they order her to leave. This means that they have to get rid of the body, then get out of town. They head for Tangier, and their old friend and local blood source, Marlowe (John Hurt). Marlowe has poisoned himself with tainted blood, so Adam and Eve become more and more in need of blood, wandering Tangier increasingly strung out, until they see a pair of young lovers.

This film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, whose previous work includes “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai,” “Coffee and Cigarettes”  and “Down by Law.” I have given a pretty full synopsis, because the story is not the important part of this film. To be honest, not a lot actually happens in this film. But it is the way that not a lot happens that makes this film. As with much of Jarmusch’s work this is a very stylish and stylised film. This is a film about the atmosphere and very much a study of the characters, and as such it is quite slow, but for me it does not ever drag.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are absolutely fantastic as the eternal lovers. Both actors bring a depth of emotion and feeling to the characters that is magnetic. They carry this film easily and with subtlty and their chemistry is electric. The supporting cast all perform well, but are overshadowed almost entirely by the leads, although not to the detriment of the film. The performaces from the leads are such that I found myself caring about the characters and becoming nervous for them as the film neared its end.

The music in this film is great, both the soundtrack and the score, which is provided by Jarmusch’s own band, SQÜRL. The music adds beautifully to the overall feel of the film and complements the cinematography well, there is a feeling throughout of a slightly bohemian nostalgia married to a slight sense of disconnection and impermanence.

The mood of this film is punctured, and punctuated by some sublime little accents of humour, that help to elevate the film and give depth to the characters. There is a great scene in which Adam, Eve and Ava go to a club and are watching a band, they have met up with the mortal, Ian, and the vampires are sitting there in their shades, looking effortlessly cool, and Ian surreptitiously slips on his own shades, trying to be as cool as them.

This film is a refreshing antidote to vampires that sparkle and one that is truly worth adding to the canon of vampire movies. It also serves as a good introduction to the films of Jim Jarmusch. All in all, despite the slow pace if this film, I found myself wanting to continue with these two central characters.

I highly recommend this film.

Review by Lawrence Mark Gillies