s my first film screening for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival Jim Jarmusch‘s romantic vampire tale is a breath of fresh in the genre. Starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as married vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive is a film set between the beautiful decay of Detroit and nostalgic Tangier. Hiddleston (whom mainstream movie geeks may know as Marvel’s Loki) plays Adam, a David Bowie like vampire recluse whose friends have included Byron and Shelley. He has no heroes yet has a wall laced with pictures of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Christopher Marlowe, and Rodney Dangerfield. He has become a nostalgic snob seeking death. Contacted by his wife Eve (Swinton) in Tangier, she takes flights (night) to detroit to convince him it is worth it to survive.
The supporting cast is populated by Anton Yelkin, Mia Wasakowski, and John Hurt. Jarmusch is wise to keep the cast small, and I don’t believe it has more than seven major roles. This concentrates our focus on the relationship between Hiddleston’s Adam and Swinton’s Eve. Yelkin’s role of Ian is one of the few human roles and it is amusing to see him try to fit in or emulate a group he does not understand. Mia Wasikowska’s Ava provides a great off kilter performance as Eve’s sister. If I had a gripe at all is that I would have enjoyed seeing more of John Hurt’s Marlowe, to the point I would watch another film featuring the character.
Like Jarmusch’s Dead Man, a film set as a western but playing against many of the tropes, Only Lovers Left Alive while being a vampire film has very little violence and a lot of dry humour. It feels more like just a story about people who feel they have seen it all and that vampire trope just necessitates it for the story. They still have the thirst for blood but in the 21st century they have more humane routes of acquiring it. Watching it I felt like I was watching a cross between High Fidelity and Interview with a Vampire but with a flair that is distinctly Jarmusch’s.
The film has brilliant cinematography that really hooks you in from the first frames of the film, but as Adam’s character is primarily a musician, the film’s score and soundtrack is what will be lingering with you after you leave the theatre. I feel Only Lovers Left Alive may feature Hiddleston’s and Swinton’s best performances to date.
The opposite of Twlight. Highly recommended.
[On a side note I noticed Eve packing a book of Basquat’s artwork into a suitcase. I assume this was an intentional nod to Jeffrey Wright who has a role in this film and has also played Basquiat his biopic.]