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Review - Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch takes on vampires in his latest feature.
Jim Jarmusch takes on vampires in his latest feature.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

By saying that the new Jim Jarmusch vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive is precisely what one would think a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie would be like, I mean it as no slight. Jarmusch, he of the cool, calm and largely plot-free films, brings his sensibilities to the bloodsuckers with invigorating results, implying his imprint onto a character-type that has, of late, felt rather worn out.

The picture stars Tom Hiddleston as Adam, a centuries old vampire living alone in the fringes of Detroit. He wakes up, writes gloomy music and longs for death’s embrace. The only initial glint of happiness that shivers along his face is when Ian (Anton Yelchin), a pseudo-Renfield fanboy of Adam’s tunes, brings an old guitar to our miserable protagonist’s abode.

Adam is not truly alone though, as his lover Eve (Tilda Swinton) is still out there, currently residing in Tangier. The two still profoundly love one another, it’s just that when you’re centuries old, a weekend off to explore one’s own passions is more akin to several years. Eve isn’t the sad-sack that Adam is, instead enjoying discussing old-times with her dear friend Marlowe (John Hurt); yes that one. Eve eventually comes to Detroit to try and bring her lover out of his funk, which is about as much as plot goes for Jarmusch’s movie.

Only Lovers Left Alive is a moody good time, with a pair of fantastic performances at its center. Jarmusch steadies his camera on the melancholy eyes of Hiddleston, reveling in letting the actor rant about how humanity aka “Zombies” have ruined all the good in the world. Good here isn’t innately positivity towards your fellow man, but open-mindedness about pushing science and art-forms forward. Adam blasts how the great scientists of history were all met with hostility or disdain. There is that element of “hipster” that Jarmusch has long brought to his filmography, epitomized Adam's comment that a particular sing is too good to be popular.

Swinton matches Hiddleston, though with a different energy. Though she too still seems to revel in times past, Swinton’s faces glows over the tiniest of things, like a mushroom thriving in an unexpected climate. She is so knowledgeable about the world, that she recognizes and adores its intricacies. Together, they are an inviting pair, comfortably romantic in a way only two people who’ve been together for ages can be.

Jarmusch doesn’t appear to have any interest in creating a one-to-one comparison for vampires. They don’t equate drugs, sex, disease or whatever. If anything they represent time, the baggage it can bring both emotionally and physically. Late in the film after a disastrous, and very amusing, visit by Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Adam seems distraught after losing one of his beloved instruments. Hundreds of year olds, with a brain akin to Tesla’s in imagination, Adam still just wants his stuff.

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