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Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

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Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires who cope very differently with modern life. Eve embraces it whilst Adam rejects it and shuts himself off from the world. However, when Eve’s wild-child little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) turns up, both their worlds are thrown into disarray.

Fans of director Jim Jarmusch will have an inkling of what to expect from Only Lovers Left Alive. It’ll be highly stylised, told at walking pace and you’ll have to dig deep to find much semblance of plot. Sounds pretty perfect for the world of vampires, doesn’t it?

Both Adam and Eve have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years and we get two very different perspectives on what is essentially eternal life and how they cope with it. Both have learnt to resist the urge to quench their thirst for blood direct from humans, instead sourcing it from specialist dealers; just part of the ubiquitous drug analogy that runs throughout the film.

Eve seems much more comfortable evolving over time; she has an iPhone, is happy to travel and is more outgoing compared to Adam, who has a much more negative view of modern society. He’s reclusive, refers to regular humans as zombies and is so disillusioned with modern life that he even considers suicide.

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The two don’t live together and seem worlds apart, yet there’s something that feels really genuine about their relationship. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston have excellent chemistry together, and they really make you believe they’re a couple who have spent hundreds of years in each other’s company.

And yet we never really know much about them. Their past is only ever hinted at, and whilst you could argue this adds to their mystique, it’s also quite frustrating that these intriguing characters ultimately appear rather underdeveloped.

Then there’s the issue of the film’s pacing, and it’s this which is likely to be the sticking point with many. Jim Jarmusch’s films are known for deliberately slow paced and this is very much the case here, focusing much more on the mood of the film rather than its narrative. Only when Eve’s younger sister Ava arrives does it break into a jog, and even though this does up the pace, it still feels a little too lethargic for its own good.

What Jarmusch does do, however, is create an absorbing atmosphere and world in which his characters inhabit. The oneiric cinematography of both Detroit and Tangier, the two locations in which the film is set, has a hypnotic quality mesmerising and really draws you into the film.

Only Lovers Left Alive is not going to appeal to everyone, particularly in its almost comatose pacing. However, it’s sultry, seductive and sexy, and thanks to some mesmerising cinematography and two magnetic central performances there’s plenty to admire if you just sit back and let the whole thing wash over you.

Pros

  • Hypnotic cinematography
  • Interesting take on the vampire story
  • Seductive performances from Hiddleston and Swinton

Cons

  • Pacing just too slow at times
  • Would have been nice to know more about the characters

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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