Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive – 8/10

‘This self-obsession is a waste of living…’


Only Lovers Left Alive has been on my watchlist forever because frankly, the idea of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston playing blood-addicted rock ‘n’ roll vampires is difficult to resist. The thing that has put me off is director Jim Jarmusch. I have traditionally not been a fan of the esoteric director’s work but I recently watched and enjoyed his neo-western fable Dead Man and it inspired me to return to the rest of his oeuvre. And I’m glad I did…

Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) are vampires. Eve is the more vivacious of the two. Adam is kind of an emo vampire. He creates music. Wonderful music. But he also flirts with suicide and lives as a recluse in an abandoned music hall in Detroit. Their life is further complicated by the introduction of Eve’s sister and hot mess Ava (Mia Wasikowska). Elsewhere, Adam’s human helper Ian (Anton Yelchin) brings him ever more elaborate guitars and Eve hangs out with playwright and fellow vampire Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).

The world Jarmusch has crafted here is one of effortless cool. Shades indoors. An indie sleaze aesthetic. At one point the two central characters visit Jack White’s house. In the hands of someone like Wes Anderson, this would be unbearably twee and annoying. Jarmusch makes it work through a mixture of pathos and authenticity. All the music is incredible – much of it written and performed by Jarmusch himself – and while this could never be classed as a ‘musical’, it deserves to be considered one of the best films about music of the last twenty years. Hiddleston and Swinton are perfect. Perhaps they are vampires in real life too. They certainly don’t seem to age. It must be said, however, that Wasikowska threatens to steal the whole thing from under them during what amounts to little more than an extended cameo. It’s a performance that begs the question as to why the Australian actress isn’t a household name right now. Maybe you can’t shrug off the stain of playing the titular character in Tim Burton’s hideous Alice in Wonderland adaptations so easily.

Only Lovers Left Alive is unique, funny and sad. Having mentioned Burton earlier, I’ll continue the comparison. He would literally kill a man to make a film as genuinely singular as this. One of the great offbeat vampire films.