Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

This ‘anti-vampire’ movie sees Jarmusch bring his idiosyncratic style to the well-worn genre in refreshing and poetic ways.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Jim Jarmusch
2013 | UK/Germany | Drama/Comedy/Romance | 123 mins | 1.85:1 |  English
NC16 (passed clean) for language and brief nudity

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt
Plot: A depressed musician reunites with his lover, but their romance, which has already endured several centuries, is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister.
Awards: Won Cannes Soundtrack Award & Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: HanWay Films

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Review #1,764

(Reviewed at The Projector)

Spoilers: No

After the critical low of The Limits of Control (2009), Jim Jarmusch bounced back immediately with a terrific work that cranked the style factor to a perfect ten.  Only Lovers Left Alive, as it is called, is one of his finest post-2000s works, centering on a couple who have not been in the company of the other for many, many years.

So, the woman, Eve, takes a night flight from Tangiers to Detroit to reacquaint with Adam, a musician suffering from depression who mostly lives as a recluse in an old, cluttered apartment.

The film never takes place in broad daylight because the two nocturnal lovers are actually centuries-old vampires living in the midst of human civilisation.  They talk about famous poets and philosophers they met a long time ago, but while they reminisce the times of the ‘classical’ period, they are also well aware of their struggles to adapt to the 21st century.

Worrying about where they might get the next dose of pure human blood for their own nutrition (without actually needing to intentionally kill anybody), Adam and Eve’s problems compound when Eve’s intolerable younger sister, Ava, unexpectedly pays a visit and disturbs their lazy rendezvous.

“I’m sure she’ll be very famous.”
“God, I hope not. She’s way too good for that.”

Jarmusch is blessed with a strong cast here, with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton sizzling up the screen with their chemistry, while Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt give good supporting performances.

Jarmusch also brings his idiosyncratic style to a well-worn genre in a refreshing and poetic way (note that Only Lovers Left Alive was made only a year after the conclusion to the teenage vampire craze that was the ‘Twilight’ franchise), to a point that one might christen it as an arthouse ‘anti-vampire’ movie, with its deliberate pace, startling lack of violence and gore, and stoner-movie vibes. It should, however, still appeal to some mainstream moviegoers who can appreciate the artistry of Jarmusch’s work, plus his attention to ambient sound and music.

In fact, the superimposition of images of a rotating vinyl and a spinning camera from the onset immediately captures the hazy-dazey feel of the film—its dreamlike qualities not just mimicking the self-absorbed mental states of the lead characters, but drawing an almost transient-like existence out of them, as if they might vanish into thin air if not for their enduring, timeless love in a wearisome, and possibly, soulless world.

Grade: A




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