Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 21 February 2014
After years of being the image of teenage romances, the vampire needed to return to a more mature audience and if there is one man who can do that, it’s renegade film-maker and art-house favourite Jim Jarmusch. Only Lovers Left Alive is, as he is quoted as saying, is a love story but it is much more than that. It’s a social satire, a commentary on 21st Century living and it has two of the most mesmerizing performances from two of the finest that Britain has to offer.
Adam is an underground musician living in a derelict part of Detroit, hiding away from the world. Suffering from depression and only his music, which he doesn’t want anyone to hear, and his love of antique instruments to amuse him, Adam is on the verge of suicide. His wife, Eve, arrives from Tangiers and tries to bring him hope and understanding. Married for centuries, these two lovers are vampires, caught up in a world of unclean blood and contamination and fearful of their very existence. Then Eve’s younger sister, the troublesome Ava, arrives and throws the lovers world into disarray.
Jarmusch has always been a quietly confident film maker, whose movies never follow the norm. Only Lovers Left Alive does exactly the same. A film that last for two hours in which very little happens and yet it hooks you in and refuses to let go. It is pure Jarmusch. Atmospheric and engrossing, it is peppered with a great soundtrack from a man who really appreciates good music.
It also seems unfair to call it a vampire movie. These are characters caught in a time they don’t belong, yearning for the past and reminiscing about music, culture, books and even Shakespeare. To Adam and Eve, humans are “zombies” and yet, they quietly move around the city late at night, never once tempted to go for the throat of a passer-by, fearing they may be poisoned. Instead, paying for pure, clean blood from hospitals and drinking it in small glasses, relishing in the fluid like a drug.
It’s all very quirky and unlike the vampires we have come to know over the years. These are proper, modern vampires and Jarmusch has really come up trumps with his casting. As Christopher Marlowe (yes, that one), it’s no surprise to see John Hurt. Always favouring an unusual role, his screen time is minimal and yet he is always welcome and very sympathetic by the end. With his obvious hatred to Shakespeare, he produces one of the film’s funnier lines. Jeffrey Wright also makes a too brief appearance as a doctor who helps Adam with his blood, with a sharp line in banter.
If the film has one slight misfooting, it’s the casting of Mia Wasikowska as Ava. She is fine but compared to her fellow cast members, she does look a little out of her depth. It’s a slight criticism is a perfectly cast film.
The triumph is having Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the leads. Swinton is an actress who was born to play the weird and the wonderful. Here, dressed in cream with bleached blonde hair, looking like a reject from The Matrix, she has an air of grace and beauty while commanding the attention of the audience. Her motherly Eve is quietly confident and yet she never needs to push the character and make her cartoonish. It’s a lovely portrayal of a woman in love yet wary of the world around here.
Add to the mix the fantastic Tom Hiddleston and you have a dynamic duo. Hiddleston, with his velvet voice as smooth as chocolate, is superb. Dressed as a Goth, all in black, mean and moody, you could listen to him talk all day and never get bored. He leads us through his collection of historical guitars and even if the film was just that, I would have been a happy man.
It is the pure power of these two actors that keeps you interested, fascinated, even drawn. You forget this is about very little, they could read the phone directory to each other and you would still have a masterpiece. Jarmusch has made a cult classic. It won’t be for everyone and those who were fans of the Twilight series and looking for a vampire replacement, this won’t be for them. It’s an intelligent, funny and engrossing film about people and one that will please Jarmusch fans everywhere.