Only Lovers Left Alive Review


Only Lovers Left Alive might not amount to a hill of beans, but damn if it isn’t one sexy, crazy, wildly enjoyable movie. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires trying to get by. That’s the film. But what it’s lacking in plot and, I guess, purpose, it more than makes up for in irreverent charm and filmmaking bravado.

Everything we learn about vampires from Jarmusch’s film is said in passing, which lends the film its tone and hints at this incredibly vast and beguiling history that’s just outside our grasp. We find out that these individuals have lived through many of history’s defining moments. They call humans “zombies,” and most don’t think it’s acceptable to obtain blood through living hosts, which is to say biting is bad news. Many of them are great artists, but they must rely on zombies to disseminate their music or literature.

Adam is depressed—beat down from being surrounded by zombies for so many centuries. He lives in Detroit, while Eve spends most of her time in Tangiers where she can remain close to her mentor, a creature known as Marlowe (John Hurt). Worried about her man’s fragile state of mind, she makes the arduous journey to Michigan where she and Adam play chess, discuss the crumbling state of society, and suck blood popsicles.

Detroit, it seems, is the perfect setting for a film like this. Desolate and abandoned, what we see during Adam and Eve’s late-night drives around town reflect their constant lamenting times and societies long gone. That weariness at the heart of this movie thankfully never becomes true melancholy because Jarmusch’s style screams aloofness and elusiveness (here and in most other films). True melancholy might have been a mistake. Only Lovers Left Alive is fun because it spits in the face of today’s vampire movie, and while we don’t necessarily connect with Adam or Eve, the arm’s length maintained between us and them is necessary for the film to make such a precise landing.

To that end, Hiddleston and Swinton give the performances they must, even if they fail to even once approach showy, grabby acting. They’re lived-in at least, which prevents us from seeing either as simply a movie star in Jarmusch’s crazy sandbox. Mia Wasikowska pops up midway through the proceedings as Eve’s out-of-control sister, and she gives the film a nice jolt of energy. But what this film will be remembered for isn’t a performance, a scene, or a dramatic arc or flourish. No, it’s noteworthy for its director’s vision—his delightfully slanted view of the world, and the marvelous way he relays it to us.

Vampires just try to get by. The guy has some chutzpah.

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