“We’ll be here till the sun comes up.”
What is it about vampires that is so seductive and that draws us in so much? That we fawn and romanticize over? It has to be the appealing danger, doesn’t it? There’s the imminent threat of being bitten. Then there is the possibility of wanting it, craving to have the beautiful creature press against our necks and sink in. I personally think the genre is overdone and has gotten stale. So many like this crash and burn. My expectations weren’t set very high, and then Only Lovers Left Alive completely changed my thinking. It’s defies genre description and is quite funny, but more importantly it doesn’t try to be scary. This isn’t a horror movie in any sense of the phrase. It’s a character study and the two leads just so happen to depend on clean human blood for survival. I never thought it could possibly be good.
Modern day and desolate Detroit serves as the ideal hideout for Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a reclusive and successful musician hiding from his fans, which in the current era draws even more interest his way. He’s upset with the state of the world and the “zombies” inhabiting it. Adam, after countless years of learning and practicing music, is a virtuoso who can’t find a reason to keep going on. An odd request to his errand boy Ian (Anton Yelchin) is made in place of the usual vintage guitar or piece of recording equipment. He wants a wooden bullet, one that is reliable, for what he calls “a special project.”
Meanwhile in Tangiers, the Vitamin D deprived Eve (Tilda Swinton) spends her days surrounded by literature, speed reading page after page while dragging her hands across the printed words. She confides in Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) and he fills her blood supply. One of my favorite aspects was seeing a vampire with an iPhone, which Eve uses to FaceTime Adam through his Nikola Tesla inspired television hookup. The primeval lovers decide to meet up. Their shared romance that we witness is entrancing.
All is well in their world. They make love, listen to music, and take drives late at night throughout the city. Adam hilariously points out Jack White’s former childhood home (if any living musician is a vamp, it’s him). Such old souls are content doing very little. That’s until Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve’s younger and childish sister comes to visit from LA. She enters the story almost exactly at the midpoint and shakes everything up. It’s a test that proves to be trying for the archaic couple.
I’ve always meant to catch up on Jim Jarmusch’s filmography, but for whatever reason I just haven’t made my way to it. That’s definitely poised to change. The story is full of easter eggs and culturally relevant people and items throughout the course of history that shows us just how long these two have been around. His script work here is impressive and the look of the movie is even more astounding. The colors pop, the music echos, and certain shot decisions are inspired. The best comes when Adam, Eve and Ava take their drink of blood. Like a junkie shooting up, their eyes roll back and they smile, falling back into a bloody pool of bliss.
Swinton has always been a renowned actress and doesn’t let us down. My attention was all on Hiddleston. I think he’s a great actor, but up until now I didn’t think he had a role to prove he could be a true leading man. I’m happy to say I was wrong about him. As Adam, he is able to conjure up feelings that the audience will never have and still makes us empathize. We understand his struggle to withhold from drinking a stranger’s blood. We imagine what it would be like to live for so long and still feel so unfulfilled. It’s all in his eyes. They’re piercing.
A spooky soundtrack and offbeat humor make this a creative step forward in the genre. However, this is a movie that clearly wants to send some type of message, and I was unable to discern one. Why are their first names so on the nose? What does it have to say about us humans being zombies? I’m sure repeat viewings would help understand the meaning, but after one watch I was left wanting something more. There were too many questions in my head that could have been answered. Despite that I was never bored, and the last frame perfectly closes the film. Only Lovers Left Alive is a fun, brooding, and worthy entry in the long line of vampire films.
“We’re finished, aren’t we?”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5