Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Tilda Swinton is a peculiar looking beast. Tall, gangly, remarkably pointy, impossibly black eyes and with an uncanny resemblance to a stick insect that I once found crawling up a wall on a trip to South Africa. Given her boney frame she’d definitely struggle to qualify for the World Cuddling Championships should it exist (does it exist?). But then again vampires aren’t supposed to be very cuddly are they? So if you are looking for someone to play a vampire you could do a great deal worse than good old Tilda. Writer, director Jim Jarmusch obviously thought the same and so cast Miss Swinton along with Tom Hiddleston as a pair of immortal, blood sucking vampires in his latest film Only Lovers Left Alive.

I don’t know if you’ve seen any of Jarmusch’s previous films (i.e Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers, Coffee and Cigarettes etc), but if you have you may know that Jim is not really one for standard narrative. His films are often so relaxed in terms of structure and plot that they teeter on the brink of comatosed. Only Lovers Left Alive is no different in this respect. The plot is almost non-existent, but if you look hard enough it’s vaguely about a married couple of vampires who struggle to keep motivated and entertained after centuries of marital bliss. Adam, a reclusive rock star, in particular, struggles to adapt to the modern world and spends his days seeking out vintage guitars to add to his musical collection.

Interestingly, these “vampires” bear a closer resemblance to middle class Guardian readers living in Kensington than the usual murderous, blood suckers that we’ve come to associate with the word. Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) while away the night time hours playing chess and talking about art, poetry and music whilst drinking glasses of claret that Adam has acquired from the local blood bank. Their comfortable, relaxed life gets shaken up for a while when Eve’s little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to visit and decides to drink one of their human friends, Ian (Anton Yelchin), but it would be an exaggeration to say that the pace builds from there to a thrilling cruciendo. It never does and it’s not supposed to. It’s not Jim Jarmusch’s style. The film basically starts very slowly and although it does pick up slightly in terms of pacing, it always remains as a fairly subtle and meandering affair. Personally, I really enjoyed the film and the very ending in particular was nigh on perfect, but it’s definitely not for everyone’s tastes.

The Final Verdict

The best thing about Only Lovers Left Alive…

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are perfectly cast as the morose yet sophisticated centuries old married couple.

The worst thing about Only Lovers Left Alive…

It takes a while to get going and when it does hit its stride it’s still a very casual pace. If your favourite film is Fast and Furious, give this a miss.

You’ll like this if you liked…

Ghost Dog, Interview with the Vampire, Lost in Translation or Inside Llewyn Davis come to mind.

Overall

An artistic movie rammed full of metaphors. In many ways it’s a bit like a cross between Interview with the Vampire and Lost in Translation with a splash of Dawson’s Creek thrown in for good measure (a heady mix indeed). It’s a vampire movie where the main vampires are more likely to be caught reading the art and literature section of The Guardian than with their fangs in a jugular. Not for everyone and if you’re looking for an easy watch you might be better off digging out your old Lost Boys DVD, but if you’re prepared to give it a go, you may very well find this film to be absorbing and interesting. 3.5 out of 5.

Words: Gareth Hutchins