Jim Jarmusch’s latest film chronicles the reunion of two vampire lovers after decades apart, when Detroit-based Adam (Tom Hiddleston) feelings of despair and anger with the world prompt his long-time love Eve (Tilda Swinton) to fly from Morocco to visit him. Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Anton Yelchin complete the ensemble cast as the arrival of Eve’s wild little sister Ava shakes up Adam and Eve’s quiet peace.
I was lucky enough to catch Only Lovers Left Alive at the London Film Festival in October and whenever I talk about it, the first reaction always seems to be “oh, so it’s a vampire movie?” This is not a vampire movie. The characters just so happen to be vampires, but their condition only influences the plot as far as an allergy would, something you’ve taken in stride and learnt to live with. In fact, the myth allows Jarmusch to justify a greater depth to the story and characters. They are both highy cultivated and have lived through historical events, and their time together has spanned centuries, fulfilling the fantasy of a timeless love story. For obvious reasons, the whole film happens at night-time, creating a dreamy, isolated atmosphere, completed by the soundtrack. Adam being a musical genius – but then again, so would you if you had a few hundred years to practice – most of the pieces in the film are presented as his work, but they are really the work of writer-director Jarmusch and his band Sqürl. Yes, this guy does everything.
With a story centered more on the characters and their inner lives than plot twists and action, a good dynamic between the cast was essential and they don’t disappoint. Tilda Swinton shines throughout the whole film; Eve was written specifically for her and you can tell. She balances Eve’s almost motherly wisdom with a casual sense of fun and she just has that look, like she’s a bit more than human. Her and Tom Hiddleston make an unlikely couple but their chemistry in this is undeniable. The biggest – and best – surprise about Only Lovers Left Alive though, is that it’s hilarious. I must admit I was expecting something broody and dramatic what with the main character being depressed and them being dead, but nope. The comical and at times awkward situations will have you laugh with them… sometimes at them. Adam’s deadpan rejection of almost everything and everyone, and their casual attitude towards the stickiest situations were especially funny.
In short: Only Lovers Left Alive is a story of love and longing carried brilliantly by its two leads. It is laugh-out-loud funny and by the way, they are vampires.
Only Lovers Left Alive is released in UK cinemas on 21 February. Can’t wait that long? The BFI is holding a preview screening on Valentine’s Day. For music fans, ATP organises an advance screening in London on 6 February followed by a live concert event starring the artists from the soundtrack. And because I am nothing if not French, here is the info on the same preview + concert event in Paris.