Director Jim Jarmusch has a way with atmosphere: his pictures are very stylized and stylish, pull the viewer right into the worlds he creates. In the past his style has sometimes overshadowed the substance of his pictures, the narrative less involving than the beautifully realized vision and interesting characters would have you believe. Only Lovers Left Alive is different: Jarmusch’s style elevates an involving story about vampires from good to great, and keeps you glued to the screen for its two-hour-long running time.
Tom Hiddleston is Adam, an old vampire composer and rockstar who’s about had it with the world. He’s seen geniuses rise only to be torn apart by mankind, a species he and his kind refer to as “zombies”, dense and ignorant little creatures. It has drained his will to stick around and that’s why, at the start of the film, Adam orders a special bullet to put an end to an existence that has spanned centuries. His wife, Tilda Swinton’s Eve, notices something’s wrong and she tries to remind him of the good things in the world. It’s a beautiful premise that’s not concerned with vampires as inventions of the horror genre, but as mythological beings blessed or doomed by their immortality. It’s a take that has been done before, but Jarmusch’s subtle one is unlike anything that preceded it.
Like many Jarmusch films Only Lovers Left Alive is basically about people (or now vampires) talking. In this instance Jarmusch’s screenplay is so strong, the material so philosophical, poetic and darkly funny, that every piece of dialogue is a joy to listen too, especially because the caliber cast brings charm, wit and class to the words and characters. In addition to Hiddleston and Swinton, the two pieces that form the heart of the film, the movie stars talent like John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska and Jeffrey Wright, who all add to the overall quality of the picture. But like with every Jarmusch film, it’s the direction that immediately impresses: a beautiful melancholy rock soundtrack is set to wonderful shots that ooze detail and history, elevating the subject matter. It all just looks and sounds so darned cool.
Only Lovers Left Alive doesn’t offer horror and scares, it offers beautifully written dialogue and food for thought through the experiences of two vampire lovers, all packed into a stunningly good-looking movie. 8/10