Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) – Review

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Written by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt

#200 of 2014
This is beginning to feel, dare I say it, a little predictable. Arguably, Jarmusch’s most notable notch on the bedpost of cinema has probably been The Limits Of Control. Whether you think this effort from him is equal to that, I’ll let you decide, but personally, I feel he is going over old ground already well traversed and not only by him. He is treading a little lighter than many, it has to be said, but does the genre really require anything quite so subtle?
Anybody that has taken more than a cursory glance in the direction of this blog over the past couple of years will already know that when it comes to vampire films, I tend to go harder on them as I feel they require such little effort and imagination to produce them. Personally, I think movies that feature them should be held in the same regard as superhero films. The opportunity for poetic licence is most likely greater, but still. For it to be worth its salt, in my opinion at least, then it has to deliver something other than the well-worn story of how romantic and yet torturous it is to be an ebony-winged denizen of the night, vanquished by a society that holds them up as nothing more than myths and monsters. Forgotten and/or ignored by humanity, their passion is their curse of experience brought on by longevity and to understand one is like trying to plait snot in the fog, because we are nothing more than mere mortals. As Adam Buxton might say; “nonsense, nonsense, nonsense”.
And Jarmusch’s effort here never manages to deliver anything notably different. It looks delightful, a dilpidated motor city and an exotic Tangiers the two most visited locales, ventured into under the cover of darkness. Two sallow, graceful, sweeping shadows, ethereal and languid, always just one glass of blood from demise. It truly sucks (sic) to live forever.
Upon entering, I thought for a moment or two that Hiddleston was actually channeling Jim Morrison. The preponderence of musical intruments and the acquisition of even more heightened this theory and I’m afraid he just failed to shake this notion for the best part of the next two hours, with an understated performance that was often frustratingly hollow. Yes, we get that living for hundreds of years can be wearing on the soul, but have we not had our fill already of reticent, tired albeit complicit vampires that just can’t raise a smile?

The film, like its protaganists, is undeniably beautiful and the attention to detail is something to behold, but also like our leads, it lacks weight. The story is slight and involves two lovers that are seperated by some distance for their own selfish reasons at the time we meet them. Their story has lasted for hundreds of years, we are led to believe, yet there is little backstory to flesh out the undead. The introduction of a sister to proceedings, in the form of Mia Wasikowska is briefly flirtatious and almost interesting, but Jarmusch quashes this optimistic sobriety with even more melancholia. Also, for a vampire several hundred years old, Wasikowska’s character seems a little too carefree to be believable as even the same species as those purported by Hiddleston and Swinton.

In summary, Only Lovers Left Alive is a treat for the eyes but we get the impression that Jarmusch expects more plaudits for how it looks than what it is trying to say, which admittedly, is seemingly very little. The performances from Hiddleston and Swinton are suitably cool, but this is more pop art than ‘entertainment’, so we would suggest that you don’t go in depressed as you may come out suicidal.

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