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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Gemma Arterton
Saoirse Ronan
Sam Riley
Caleb Landry-Jones
Jonny Lee Miller.
Directors
Neil Jordan.
Screenwriters
Moira Buffini.
Running Time
118 minutes

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Byzantium
Let The Right Two In...


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Plot
Clara (Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Ronan), both vampires, have been on the run together from the Brotherhood, an order of male vampires, for 200 years. After being nearly caught by Darvell (Riley), a vampire who was involved in their creation, they abandon their current home and move to a faded English seaside town. Clara persuades weak-willed Noel (Daniel Mays) to let her run a brothel from Byzantium, his failing hotel, and Eleanor befriends a sickly youth, Frank (Caleb Landry Jones).


Review
Byzantium

Vampire movies are not a passing trend in horror/fantasy, though movie vampires change with the times. They are always a good commercial bet, though. Neil Jordan’s last seaside fantasy, Ondine, was about a ‘selkie’ (another female supernatural being) and barely rippled filmgoers’ consciousness. That might explain why he’s looking at the blood-drinking undead for the second time in his career.

A generation ago, Jordan directed the sumptuous film of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire, a starrily cast study of the relationship between two male vampires who are at once lovers and parent and child. Nearly 20 years on, Byzantium — written by Moira Buffini (Tamara Drewe, Jane Eyre) from her play A Vampire Story — is a return to the genre. Here, a pair of mother-and-daughter vampires cling and clash throughout the centuries like Louis and Lestat in Interview, evading an organised society of male bloodsuckers who disapprove of their very existence. Whereas the earlier film was an elegant and well-dressed Gothic, this makes even its historical flashbacks seem cold and uncomfortable and imbues all its characters with dread and desperation.

Each vampire story has to reinvent the rules. Buffini’s fangless creatures sprout thornlike thumbnails to open their victims’ veins, and the process of transformation from regular human to immortal is uniquely folkloric, involving a boat trip to a mist-shrouded island, a stone hut embedded in a waterfall and a cloud of seabirds. Starting in realist mode with mama monster Clara (Gemma Arterton) as a contemporary lap-dancer who keeps cheesewire handy to behead unwelcome callers and daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) haunting council estates for OAPs to bleed, Byzantium looks to pre-Stoker literature for the early 19th century flashbacks which explain their origins. Darvell (Sam Riley) and Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller), naval officers whose casual attitude to women has centuries-long consequences, take their names from versions of a story told by Lord Byron (A Fragment) and John Polidori (The Vampyre) which introduced the vampire into English prose.

There’s a touch of early ’70s films like Daughters Of Darkness and The Velvet Vampire, though making its vampires mother and daughter means it doesn’t default to Hammer-like lesbian kink (Interview probably gave Jordan enough gay vampires for one career). In an eerie, chilly, tatty-yet-genteel seaside town, the couple fall out — Clara preys on those who deserve to die while Eleanor seeks out those who don’t want to live — and their pursuers close in. A vein of humour is punctured as Eleanor is red-flagged by teachers because she takes seriously an assignment to write the unvarnished truth about her early life and turns in an assignment that reads like a Gothic fairy tale, but this is mostly a melancholy, strange picture.


Verdict
A mixture of tough and wistful and reflective and brutal, this is the ideal vampire movie for Twi-hards who’ve had their hearts broken for the first time and want to move on to a less cosy vision of eternal romance with a side order of addiction.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Byzantium
Empire Star Rating

4stars?

4 stars for this is surely a joke, i could understand 3 maybe due to the cast been solid but 4?! This movie is actually one of only 2 or 3 movies where i went to the cinema based on an impressive empire review&cursed you's as i left the theatre. And i have been reading empire for a decade now. Which actually probably means i shouldn't complain due to all the other great movies i saw based on positive reviews but what can i say i'm a massive moany biatch i guess. How you's could give this 4 s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fuzzy1659 at 02:10, 14 December 2013 | Report This Post


4stars?

4 stars for this is surely a joke, i could understand 3 maybe due to the cast been solid but 4?! This movie is actually one of only 2 or 3 movies where i went to the cinema based on an impressive empire review&cursed you's as i left the theatre. And i have been reading empire for a decade now. Which actually probably means i shouldn't complain due to all the other great movies i saw based on positive reviews but what can i say i'm a massive moany biatch i guess. How you's could give this 4 s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by fuzzy1659 at 02:09, 14 December 2013 | Report This Post


A THOUGHTFUL VAMPIRE MOVIE.....

Whoever thought that being a vampire could turn out to be such a miserable existence? This is an ”arty” / kitchen sink type horror movie with some committed performances. The standouts are Gemma Arteton and Saoirse Ronan, both of whom convince as the two titular bloodsucking wastrels. Some nice dream like visuals complement a choppy script and some regulation splatter and gore – but the faux pas happy ending seemed like a bit of a cop out considering all that had gone on before... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 17:05, 08 October 2013 | Report This Post


A THOUGHTFUL VAMPIRE MOVIE.....

Whoever thought that being a vampire could turn out to be such a miserable existence? This is an ”arty” / kitchen sink type horror movie with some committed performances. The standouts are Gemma Arteton and Saoirse Ronan, both of whom convince as the two titular bloodsucking wastrels. Some nice dream like visuals complement a choppy script and some regulation splatter and gore – but the faux pas happy ending seemed like a bit of a cop out considering all that had gone on before... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 17:05, 08 October 2013 | Report This Post


A cure for insomnia!

Had the misfortune of going to watch this the other night and was hoping it would be the kick up the backside the vampire genre so badly needs. Instead I was presented with two hours of absolute tedium, this movie has no sense of pace and completely lacks atmosphere. I was bored after twenty minutes and found all the characters to be completely unlikeable. Scenes were unbearably long and the whole writing the life story and piano playing were pretentious beyond belief. Easily the worst film I h... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mulholland Empire at 01:43, 10 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Byzantium

Saw this last night and thought it was quite wonderful....beautifully shot to evoke a modern retelling of a classic Gothic tale. Loved the way the film never had to overtly explain the hows and whys it just took you on a enchanting journey as you slowly pieced together the lives of these two anomalies who can't and won't fit into either of the world's that spawned them. Intelligent and magnificently crafted 4 out of 5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ChudMonkey at 10:10, 07 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: 4 STARS?!

Single mother Clara and her daughter Eleanor are vampires who are constantly on the run, moving from town to town and living on the edges of society. Clara supports them by working as a lap dancer or a prostitute or a madam, while Eleanor struggles with the isolation of their nomadic existence and longs to tell someone their secret – they are hundreds of years old and survive by drinking blood, though Eleanor only kills people who wish for death. When they arrive in the decaying seaside town... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:26, 05 June 2013 | Report This Post


4 STARS?!

I took my girlfriend to see this last night and I've been left scratching my head as to why it's gotten 4 stars. It's awful. A couple in front of us left after half an hour. I was tempted to follow. The whole thing was just slow and uninteresting. Honestly, this movie is awful. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by a_man_and_his_monkey at 10:43, 05 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: Byzantium

For nearly thirty years, the collaboration between Irish director Neil Jordan and English producer Stephen Woolley have led to some great work such as The Company of Wolves, Mona Lisa, and The Crying Game. Having tackled vampires before in 1994 with their adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Jordan returns to the world of bloodsuckers, this time centralising the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and her daughter. When Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Clara ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 20:20, 31 May 2013 | Report This Post


It's ok.

Looks quite good. Soundtrack is as gorgeous as Ronan's blue eyes. Acting is pretty solid all round. Standout moment is when Eleanor is explaining to a teacher how she'll one day prove her story is real. The slow pacing was a bit of an issue for me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 19:52, 31 May 2013 | Report This Post


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