Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (spoilers)

It’s been a long time since I saw a Vampire movie I actually liked. The last one was Interview with the Vampire which I don’t think I’m so fond of anymore (I certainly couldn’t get into the book). I’ve grown out of my goth phase which could be one reason, though they do say you can take the person out of the goth but you can’t get the goth out of the person no matter how hard you scrub.

Only Lovers Left Alive written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers) stars the ever androgynous Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer, Zero Theorem and David Bowie’s The Stars Are Out Tonight) as Eve, with moody Tom Hiddleston (Thor, The Avengers, that brilliant Jaguar advert) as Adam. They are joined by John Hurt (The War Doctor himself,  1984, Alien) as Marlow, and a written-to-be-annoying Mia Wasikowska (The Double, In Treatment) as Ava. Rounding off the cast is Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness) as the incongruously named Ian, and Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, The Hunger Games) as Doctor Watson, supplier of blood to Adam.

There are two things I don’t like about the movie, which I’ll state up-front: The font chosen for the titles which may be intended to set a tone of ancient vampires but which I think comes across as cheap, and and the almost funny ending which I won’t reveal but which could have been a call-back to the old Hammer Horror movies.

Two cities feature, the decaying city of Detroit where Adam lives as an underground musician obsessed with Funeral music, and the city of Tangier in Morocco, where Eve resides along with Marlow (Tom Hurt) a Vampire who supplies her with uncontaminated blood. Adam is not a happy vampire and his request to Ian to obtain a bullet made of a very hard wood seems an obvious choice for the perpetually young musician. If only Kurt Cobain had been a Vampire, how the world would be different.

Adam’s despair at the Zombies (Humans) who are defiling the Earth, drives his melancholy, and his life in a boarded-up old home in the middle of nowhere helps create a mood of isolation and decay. Either the production designer hunted a long time for such amazingly run down architecture or America’s home of the Automobile is in serious trouble; I think the latter based on news reports I’ve seen.

So much for capitalism.

As a visual metaphor for Adam’s mood, though, it hits all the right notes. He, like Detroit, is breaking down; he’s done his best to hide from the world outside, risking only occasional trips to Doctor Watson for blood supplies paid for with great wads of cash. It is only a video call from Eve that saves him from a woody demise.

This is no True Blood clone and seems to hark back to a more moody Vampire rather than the soap opera goings on of Bon Temps. And to be honest, I like the darkness of this story, the interesting visuals, the casting and indeed, the whole package. Here’s a vampire story which restores “cool” to the Vampire mythos, and creates a world which is less trailer trash and sparkles and more dark, broody and mysterious. They are creatures of the night, and the night is dark and has shadows in it. Both locations have age and mystery, and are architecturally the representations of Adam and Eve. There’s so much detail here that it’s a movie I’ll gladly watch again and the characters have backstories which seem to scream out for further exploration. This was a movie made for fanfic.

Night in Detroit is the perfect place for Vampire lovers to hide, and Eve and Adam drive around in his electric XJ-S Jaguar, a relic of the 1970’s. But it is Ava’s arrival that really moves the goalposts. She is Eve’s sister (by blood. Haha) and has the appearance and air of an entitled teenager. Her arrival is flagged three times before she arrives, which is either arty or poor writing; I’ll go for the former because it’s a minor quibble given the subject-matter which could have left the movie as a campy call-back to old horror movies.

Like Under the Skin, Only Lovers Left Alive is told from the point of view of the vampires, and their attitudes, borne of living so long, seem almost quaint in comparison to the humans around them. Eve and Adam seem so normal, so down to earth it’s almost like they’d be really good people to know, at least up to the point they bite you. Poor Ian finds this out the hard way thanks to Ava’s uncontrollable thirst, and the lovers justifiably throw her out on her arse then flee the country. Finding Marlow, seemingly inspiration for Shakespeare, on his last fangs thanks to a dodgy drop seems cold comfort for finding one-another again.

I’d say the artyness Only Lovers Left Alive is balanced by a decent narrative. I’m in two minds now about the ending: was it, as my partner thought, a bit tacked-on, or will it look better after a second viewing?

Only my credit card DVD order will tell.

Rating: 4/5 (minus points for the font and the ending)

 

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.

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