When you spend the duration of a film asking yourself whether or not you’re enjoying it, you’ve probably already answered your own question. Jim Jarmusch’s take on the ‘vampire movie’ is under the impression that it is a lot cooler than it really is. It is too self-aware for its own good but that isn’t to say it is a lost cause. There is a lot to be admired about Only Lovers Left Alive but sadly there was even more to irritate and bore. The plot is almost non-existent but this is not a problem. Although hardly anything really happens, the narrative moves smoothly from scene to scene. The performances are top notch but the film is so overly-conscious of how it looks that it begins to grate on you in the final quarter. The film improves after the first half an hour. It takes some time to find its feet but seems to stumble back down after a rather solid 45 minutes in the middle.
Adam and Eve, so righteously named, are husband and wife and have been for centuries. They are also vampires. Their love remains intact and the story gets going once Eve journeys from Morocco to stay with her lover, who resides in Detroit. We are given the impression that the couple spend time apart in order to keep their relationship filled with desire and longing. When Eve’s irritating and mischievous sister comes to stay, the couple’s routine is disrupted and destroyed and the sibling’s arrival leads to some problematic consequences. The film could have definitely looked better. It has been, after all, a season of great looking films – from Spike Jonze’s Her to David O. Russell’s American Hustle. Detroit provides a perfect backdrop for a vampire story but it isn’t taken full advantage of. Instead, Jarmusch is more interested in pointing our Jack White’s house and name-dropping his way through history. These two revelations may explain a lot about the problems we find in Only Lovers Left Alive. I also didn’t find it as funny or romantic as I wanted to. I might be alone here as most of the audience I sat through it with were chuckling away throughout.
I would honestly watch Tom Hiddleston in anything and I am perfectly happy to stare at him and sigh blissfully into my popcorn for two hours. Hiddleston gives the best performance he can in Jarmusch’s latest project but seems the most restrained. As well as a bad, acrylic wig, Hiddleston also has to put up with his pretty limited character. Adam is a musician; a dull and depressed one. The whole Cobain vibe is very uninteresting and the film is at its weakest when Hiddleston is left to discuss and play his numerous guitars which turns into a nerdy game of spot the Fender Telecaster. Tilda Swinton is undoubtedly one of the greatest actresses of the last twenty five years. She fits into Jarmusch’s universe effortlessly and is pretty obvious casting as Eve. She brings a grace to the vampire role as well as a humility. Her familiar voice, along with Hiddleston’s, is soothing and graceful. Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt are also on great form. Hurt is, well, being Hurt and Wasikowska brings a cheek and chaos to the story that gives it energy just as it’s starting to really sag. The flaws aside, at least Jim Jarmusch has tried to do something more exciting than most contemporary vampire films attempt to do. Yet, just when you think someone is going to refresh the worn out ‘vampire film’ we are left with proof that this is one category that is truly exhausted. Let’s just leave it alone, allow it to rest and revitalise, and maybe return to it in fifteen to twenty years. Agreed? All in favour, raise your hands.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.