Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch (“Broken Flowers”)
Written by: Jim Jarmusch (“Broken Flowers”)
Taking a realistic approach to the idea of two vampires who have been living and loving on this earth for centuries, unconventional writer/director Jim Jarmusch breaks the mold with “Only Lovers Left Alive,” a fresh and distinctive entry into the vampire genre. For those who like their vampires to sparkle like diamonds like they do in the “Twilight” series or – on the opposite end of the spectrum – live like gorehounds and quench their insatiable thirst any way they can, Jarmusch’s cool, laid-back vampire story probably won’t do anything for you. Art-house film aficionados, however, should be pleased to see what Jarmusch is able to do with his non-formulaic narrative, especially with perfectly-cast actors Tom Hiddleston and Oscar winner Tilda Swinton in the lead roles. The result is undeniably tasty.
For a couple of undead characters who have been around for centuries, vampires Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) sure do have this whole “living” thing down pat. Adam, a depressed and reclusive musician, lives in the most lifeless part of Detroit while Eve has found a happy existence living in Morocco. It makes sense that vampires, who have been together for hundreds of years, would probably take some time off from inhabiting the same space so they won’t grow tired of each other.
Adam, however, is depressed. His only real link to the outside world is Ian (Anton Yelchin), the only “zombie” (AKA human being) he can stand to be around, who provides him with rare stringed instruments to purchase. Upon seeing that Adam is acting more emo than usual, Eve decides she’ll fly out (on an airplane, not as a bat) for a much-needed visit. The two are enjoying their time together until Eve’s immature sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up and does some really vampy things, which send Adam and Eve’s lives into a tailspin.
Along with the fact that Adam and Eve don’t live together, Jarmusch pays attention to other details that would come up if vampires really existed, which makes “Only Lovers” all the more believable and authentic. For example, when it comes to nourishing themselves with human blood, it wouldn’t make much sense if the couple lived off the necks of real people in the 21st century (haven’t you seen “CSI?” They’d be arrested or always on the run). Instead, both have their own personal hook-up to blood that keeps them from having to murder everyone they meet. Adam pays a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) handsomely for it; Eve turns to a famous 16th century playwright (John Hurt) for her premium-grade sustenance.
Jarmusch, whose past films include the wonderful “Broken Flowers” starring Bill Murray and “Stranger than Paradise,” takes on a different tone than his previous work. There is an underlying sadness to “Only Lovers” that paints an intriguing picture about what it would be like to live forever. While there are many people out there who would love to discover the Fountain of Youth, Jarmusch raises interesting issues about mortality and about just how much living one person can do when you know you’re always going to wake up the next night.
This film was screened at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival. For more coverage, click here.