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  • Writer's pictureMartyn Wakefield


Dir. Jim Jarmusch

Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is a bit of a conundrum. A vampire film without an enemy, a vampire film without a high body count, a vampire film with very little to bleed about. So why is it that somewhere beyond the surface, something both sinister and charming lies.

The film is a snap shot into the lives of century travelling vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Sipping from blood samples and synthetic solutions to resolve their cravings, their lives are as mundane as ours (ironically the human race are referred to as zombies). The lives of two people who are cursed to live forever and set their different paths. Adam is a moody blues loving Kurt Cobain wannabe living in Detroit while his wife is away in Tangier enjoying the milder sounds and tranquillity of a hippy.

On the verge of suicide, Eve sets back to save Adam only to find their last days dawning upon them with the arrival of Ava (Mia Wasikowska) as her lust for blood sees chaos disrupt Toms suburban life as an underground musician and their search for food lead them to the ultimate decision… Kill, or be killed.

Powered along by spellbound performances from Hiddleston (who's charm excels his on screen charisma that is Loki) and Swinton (as brilliant as ever), it is their chemistry and prowess that hold this film together. The additions of Wasikowska, John Hurt and Anton Yelchin as Adam’s ill-fated assistant only add to the brilliant casting.

Then we come to the backdrop of the film. Shot amidst a broken Detroit and almost as ruined Tangier, the isolation brings out a beauty which would otherwise be dismissed. Bringing the sense of isolation not just in scenery but for both Adam and Eve in an eternity of mortal surroundings. Wrapped around with one of the best soundtracks you’ll here which makes the album worth the admission price alone. Sqürl's (a collective including director Jim Jarmusch, Carter Logan and Shane Stoneback) simple yet otherworldly guitars echo throughout every scene like a graceful vampire with no friction to the floor. This is one of those scores that is as perfect out of context as it is coupled with the great cinematography unfolding on screen.

Each shot of blood taken leads to a psychedelic high and the empty street of Detroit look like a holiday promotional tour with Hiddleston pointing out iconic locales and the house of Jack White. The camera never misses an opportunity to shine its brightest stars and here lies a star in every corner, from actors to designers, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is film making at its most beautiful.

There may be a small pulse of a story here and its set up matches that of last years other superb offering, KISS OF THE DAMNED which bought more blood, sex and great acting, but ONLY LOVERS... graces along with a sense of objection to the usual Vampire cliché. Jarmusch has done a fantastic job of moving an otherwise dull lengthy picture into one of the most moving and relatable films you’ll see featuring vampires.

While the blood and guts may be on the back burner for emotion and characterisation, this never steps foot into TWILIGHT territory and remains faithful to the folklore of Vlad without folding into its own cliché.

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE is all kinds of brilliant. From costume design to soundtrack and casting to setting, there is nothing to fault this vampire film that holds no violence and an on screen body count of 1.

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