Only Lovers Left Alive Review

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Ageless vampire Adam (Hiddleston) recruits his nomadic, blood-drinking wife Eve (Swinton) to help lift him from his heavy funk.


Having already scoped out Westerns, spy movies and portmanteau taxicab epics, lounge lizard auteur Jim Jarmusch turns his singular groove — unhurried, vaguely plotted, hypnotically stylish — to another genre: the vampire saga. As is his wont, there are hints of autobiography about his laconic nightcrawlers. These are aesthetes of an underground scene, with Bowie cheekbones and uncanny hair, vamps long past the biting stage.

Like undead Guardian readers they discuss high-flown books and music in deadly earnest, glide through intimate marital rituals and sup plasma from crystal glasses. There is no horror to speak of, only an after-dark aura of drained lives and deep connections.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is the grouch, a Byronic musician on a “funeral” jag, contemplating turning a wooden bullet on his embittered heart. Hiddleston makes an ideal vampire — pale as a bed-sheet he works the Iggy Pop torso and sulky demeanour of a rock star gone to ground, inhabiting a mouldering baronial recording studio in the wolf-haunted hinterlands of that ‘dead city’, Detroit.

Eve (Tilda Swinton) at least has an iPhone. She’s more engaged with the world, lighter of mood. Swinton, genetically sun-starved and heroin thin, is surprisingly warm and wry, tending to her lover’s pouty needs with a motherly patience.

What plot there is has the immortal beloveds confront his suicidal flounces and her troublesome baby sister (Mia Wasikowska), who ruffles their ennui by drinking his human factotum (Anton Yelchin). It all wafts by comfortably with no great urgency to decipher its enigmatic postures; Jarmusch is a more relaxed riddler than, say, the Coens. Maybe it’s a satire about self-involved artists adrift in obscurity. Then, Jarmusch might genuinely be lamenting the waning of our cultural times (humans are decried as “zombies”). From David Foster Wallace to Nicholas Ray to throaty rock played on an 8-track, these are the things he thinks should live forever.

Haunting and idiosyncratic, Jarmusch’s vampire marriage preaches to the converted, but he’s in fine voice nonetheless.