Movie Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

only lovers left alive movie review

One of the most highly anticipated premieres of the 2014 SXSW Film Festival was the artistically rendered vampire tale Only Lovers Left Alive starring the ethereal Tilda Swinton and enigmatic Tom Hiddleston. Poised as star-crossed hopeless romantics whose love affair has endured for centuries, Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) are drawn together once again when Eve senses Adam’s suicidal tendencies are emerging. Crossing the Atlantic from Tangier to Detroit Eve reminds Adam of the simple pleasures of living and the power of true love. However, when Eve’s destructive little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) arrives from L.A. a sweet reunion of lovers turns tragic sending them on the run.

Only Lovers Left Alive is a subtle oil painting of insights and expressions—it is a melancholy thesis on the challenges of existence while triumphing the restorative powers of having one single person who understands you as no one else has or ever will again. Hiddleston’s portrayal of the reclusive rock and roll musical genius mired in the darker shades of life on the edges of the hollow and hellish shell of Detroit is as equally elegantly poetic as it is destructive, his resignation palpable and tangible as the grooves in an old 45 record. In comparison, Swinton’s “Eve” is ghostly and ethereal, a creature who lives and breathes every aspect of international culture seeking out the poignancy in the almost invisible details from a line of Arabic poetry to the smoky confines of a tiny Detroit bar. Apart, they live without living while together Adam and Eve become the eternal representation of balance, yin and yang, dark and light.

Hiddleston and Swinton portray vampires with regal realism, stylish and graceful, a perfect balance of artistic inquisitiveness and jadedness that makes them the creatures we somehow all long to be. This is not an action film—written with the same finesse of vampire films such as Let the Right One In this is a vampire tale for true fans of the genre. At first I was personally unsure what to think of it, so prepared I had been by the previous anticipatory build of the media teasers leading up to the premier combined with my experiences with the vampire films of the past few years that initially I left the theater with a feeling of wanting for something I simply couldn’t identify. But as we poured out of the Violet Crown theater into the midnight streets of Austin, Texas I took a seat on a bench in the chilly spring shadows and reflected upon all that I had witnessed upon the silver screen. It was then that I realized I did not want for more but simply needed a moment to wrap myself in the story a bit longer—honestly, this is a film that requires multiple viewings in order to truly grasp its infinite beauty.

From the fluid interaction of Adam and Eve within the peeling paint of Adam’s home, to the leaning towers of ancient books and priceless guitars within which they dance to a haunting soundtrack of rock and roll “funeral music” Only Lovers Left Alive is pure art, plain and simple and beautiful. Jim Jarmusch has crafted a remarkable contribution to the vampire genre as well as a love story which resonates long and low and sweet like a minor violin note that causes you to shiver and sigh. I can assure that I will be seeing this film repeatedly and investing in a few new sets of sunglasses and gloves. You’ll see why…