Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive photo starrating-3stars.jpgFirstly, if you’re already an aficionado of director Jim Jarmusch, then stop reading and just go see Only Lovers Left Alive right now. He has been a filmmaking pioneer in American cinema. His trippy movies have always been a bit of an acquired taste but there is no denying that Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Down By Law (1986) and Mystery Train (1989) were influential movies that shaped the independent film movement of the 1980s. The much more accessible Broken Flowers (2005) is the closest thing he’s ever had to a hit, but he’s never really been about that anyway. The Limits of Control (2009), his most recent work until now, was his least well received. Only Lovers Left Alive is a return to form and should be crack to anyone who is a fan of the auteur’s work.

Adam is a comparatively young 500 year old vampire musician who composes music, looks like a rock star and lounges around looking fabulous. Tilda Swinton is his spouse. A brilliant vampire scholar with pale skin, wears silk scarves and sports a shock of white hair that look like dreadlocks. She is a somewhat more mature 3,000 years old. Together they lament the presence of zombies, their pejorative for normal humans. Heavily populated LA is “zombie central” which is probably why they hang out in an abandoned old shell of city like Detroit. These two are a rather sensitive pair getting all their high quality blood from sources that don’t involve killing humans. He from a hematologist played by Jeffrey Wright at a local blood bank and she from her friend Christopher Marlow (John Hurt). Yes the same English dramatist who was a peer of Shakespeare (and apparently not a friend). Adam and Eve are a tormented two that love art, music and all the correct things that hipsters are supposed to like. That includes classic R&B records on vinyl and reading manuscripts in book form.  Oh and they sip their superior hemoglobin like sherry from cut glass crystal stemware.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton make for a striking pair. As the principal duo they have sort of an androgynous charisma that almost sells the picture on sheer mood. They’re detached, emotionally aloof and too-cool-for-you. Just the look of them standing in a dark corner of a Detroit music club with sunglasses is kind of amusing. For me the whole production gets a real shot in the arm when Eve’s undisciplined sister shows up. As played by Mia Wasikowska she is a young free spirit, slightly goofy and wears polka-dot leggings. She’s got personality to spare and still finds humans attractive, particularly to boys her own age in the music industry (Anton Yelchin). That proves to be a bit of a problem later. Once her story arc is over, she leaves and it’s back to moping around and feeling depressed. Adam and Eve represent the rare intellectual with an unquenchable passion for the categories of music, literature and science that hipsters find admirable. You see the “only lovers” in the title are for the beauty of art not sex. They’re tortured individuals. If you share Adam and Eve’s point of view, this film will be catnip to your sensibilities. It’s beautifully written and has an evocative mood. But as they repeatedly bemoan the lack of culture in contemporary society their sulking personalities dangerously straddle the line between suffering…and insufferable.


22 Responses to “Only Lovers Left Alive”

  1. Hi Mark! Well I’ve only seen one Jim Jarmusch film but I quite liked it. The main draw for me is Hiddles and Swinton, and this is a pairing not to be missed, the vampire thing just made it all the more intriguing!


    • Yeah the idea of those two playing chic vampires is kind of hard to resist. I found my mind drifting to other things as I was watching because the story really didn’t captivate my attention the way I thought it would.

      Still there is a lot to love here and for the right viewer, this could be a favorite of 2014. I just wasn’t that viewer.


  2. I’ve been meaning to see those three 80s films you mentioned. Didn’t know they were from the same crazy director. May as well see this too.

    P.S.: Am I still top commentator? 😉

    Envoyé de mon iPhone



  3. I was waiting for that last line there! haha. Great way to go out, and I think it might perfectly summarize my view of it: insufferable.

    I mean, I adore Hiddleston and while I’m not big on Tilda Swinton I like her enough to maybe see this. I’m just not sure about the combination of her, the hipsters and the vampire elements.


  4. Emily Crawford-Margison Says:

    I loved this film. I’m a huge Jarmusch fan and actually Limits was my introduction to him back in 2009. I’m just now watching the trilogy and I’m on Down by Law. I love his style, and I think this is definitely my fav film from him so far.


  5. Don’t really like Jarmusch movies, but this one very much surprised me. Not because it was good, per se, but because it made vampires not just seem cool, but also sympathetic as well. Good review Mark.


    • Well Adam & Eve were so nice about the whole “I need human blood!” situation. Ava kind of messed things up and well things don’t always go as planned. Oh what’s a vampire to do!


  6. I saw the previews and I knew i wanted to see this. I love Tilda and thought this is the role suited just for her. Unfortunately, I was quite bored in the beginning, and when Mia showed up, it pepped up the movie, only to slow down again, once she left. I understand the praises, but I was disappointed. Overall, this was a yawn. 2 1/2 stars


  7. Very slow and the characters feel far too underdeveloped but I still really enjoyed it. The cinematography and whole mood of the film was really seductive. Nice review!


  8. Not sure if this will be my cup of tea but I am certainly interested in the concept. I plan to watch it some time when I am far from sleepy and loaded with a higher amount of caffeine than usual. Because I have a nasty feeling this one will be sleep inducing. Good and well executed perhaps but slow on any sort of thrills. Or possibly verging insufferable throughout…

    Nevertheless, I plan to give it a shot! Mia is always a great actress to watch!


    • Load up on caffeine eh? Are you sure drinking a lot of coffee is the best thing to be doing right before you watch a movie that’s over 2 hours? Heh heh 😉


  9. Great review, admittedly one that is much more negative than my own. Out of curiosity, are you generally a Jarmusch fan?


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