Film Review : Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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IMDB Score – 7.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Directed By – Jim Jarmusch
Starring – Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, and John Hurt

A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.

This is not a vampire film. This is a Jim Jarmusch film. These are the words spoken by one of the theater employees at the Landmark Sunshine. He was absolutely correct. It took me a couple weeks to finally get to see this, not because of a distaste of Jarmusch films, but rather a reluctance to see anything vampire related. Once again, I was wrong. The film ended up being about vampires, but only in the way that the two characters just so happened to be vampires. The rest of the film was a slow burning lesson in how to make and immersing hang out film. I loved it.

The film centers around the aptly named Adam and Eve, two vampires who have lived on the earth longer than most countries have around. The adhere to typical vampire myth/lore in which they can’t go out during the day, they are immortal, and they need blood to survive. The problem they face is getting the blood. This is not the same world that they used to live in. There is facebook, youtube, cameras, and police forces that can and will catch them in the act if they used their old way. They have to find their blood in more creative ways and this usually involves a lot of money, money acquired through means I’m not aware of. This seems like a very urgent conflict that would drive the film but it was really only a secondary plot line. The film ended up being a two how Jim Jarmusch dance of style, music, conversation, and light. It’s a complete atmosphere film that relies heavily on the soundtrack to help the painted scenery come alive. The film take place solely at night so every single shot is backed by dark and faded light sources. It perfectly fit the setting of an abandoned and desolate Detroit. I can’t explain enough how much I loved the aesthetic of this film. Jarmusch has always been a talent behind the camera but this may be his finest work yet.

The music, as I said, plays a huge role. Adam is an other worldly musician who has collected priceless items over the years of advancing his craft. He does so however by way of remaining completely recluse in his house so that nobody will catch on to the fact that he’s been alive so long. Anton Yelchin plays Adam’s close friend Ian and person whom he pays to fetch these instruments and whatever else he desires. He doesn’t know who Adam is but admires his genius. Tom Hiddleston was the first of two absolutely perfect casting choices for the leads. He may come off a bit like a hipsters dream of “fuck the system” cynicism but he also is wise beyond any human counterpart and just leaks the kind of coolness only a depressed vampire can give. Usually I frown upon seeing these kind of characters but the way Hiddleston portrayed Adam hooked me in line and sinker just like Adam did with Ian. Tilda Swinton plays Eve, the wife of Adam who travels from her home in Tangier to see her lover. I don’t quite remember why they were apart. They may not have explained it. It may just be the fact that they were lovers for thousands of years and needed some time apart, just like human relationships. Swinton may just be the perfect female vampire. She has that accent to go along with the white face and long hair. I was just amazed by her performance as the older and wiser vampire that understands what her man is going through. John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska also play vampires although their roles are less prominent. Both played their roles beautifully even though I couldn’t stand Wasikowska’s character of Eva, the little sister to Eve.

I’m trying not to go into too many plot details but honestly, there aren’t many details to talk about. It’s a total slow burn that is both captivating in terms of writing and mesmerizing in terms of aesthetics. It’s a film that may be boring to some but for people who love Jim Jarmusch’s films, it’s a pleasure film all the way. I can’t recommend it enough and while I’m not giving it a perfect rating, mostly due to my dislike of one of the characters, it’s probably Jarmusch’s best film to date and probably my favorite film of the year so far. Try to see it in theaters if you can.

4.5/5

Related – Anything Jim Jarmusch…anything




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3 thoughts on “Film Review : Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

  1. I’m not a huge fan of Jarmusch’s movies, but I was surprised by this one. Not because it was actually good, but because he was able to make a story about vampires actually work and not seem at all tired. Good review.

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