In Only Lovers Left Alive, a lush, leisurely look at love among the ruins, Adam, a musician living on the outskirts of Detroit, isn’t dealing too well lately with immortality. Holed up in a rundown, squalid house, his only contact a low-end wheeler-dealer in the local music scene, he’s lost in rumination about the general crappiness of mankind, from their poor treatment of visionaries to execrable carelessness in electrical wiring. Saving him from a specially commissioned wooden bullet to the chest, his wife Eve, who lives in Tangier, carefully packs a suitcase full of books and comes to visit.
Unlike Adam, the years sit lightly on Eve. Wearing a thatch of wild yellow hair, she delights in nature, greeting plants and animals by their Latin names, treating them like old friends who have unexpectedly trundled by. With books and chess and dancing, she tries to pull Adam out of his slump. When Adam glumly observes that it feels as though all the sand has gone through the hourglass, she tells him that he must just turn the glass over again. She doesn’t try to convince him that the “zombies”, as he calls humans, aren’t worthless, but reminds him that things have been much, much worse in the past. Even ruined Detroit, she predicts, will rise again.
Vampires feel done to death these days, and it’s hard to find a fresh take. The approach taken in Only Lovers Left Alive is to mostly ignore the implications of being a vampire - with the exception of a few comedic plot points - and dwell on circumstances that can befall all thinking and feeling beings: loneliness, existential angst, friendship, joy. Adam and Eve react to events in their lives—Eve’s impulsive, self-centered sister Ava arriving for an unwelcome visit, Adam’s music being in danger of being outed, an unexpected blood shortage—but the plot doesn’t feel central. Mostly it’s about two people bumping along in their lives, wresting meaning from a random universe as best they can, clinging together for companionship as they face down eternity, with only love making it worth the effort of enduring. With the struggles of these alien creatures the same as our own, it’s easy to feel a fellowship with them. Worth seeing, though perhaps enjoyed best if in a languid, contemplative mood.