“Only Lovers Left Alive” is a Bloody Good Movie

If I told you that there was a really good vampire love story movie called Only Lovers Left Alive, most of you would stop reading this before the sentence was over, and rightfully so. Lately, vampire movies suck (pun intended). As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time in this world where vampire movies were scary, cool, and very bloody. Now, my generation is stuck with the pale, glittery kind that Stephanie Myer has decided to punish us with. So unless you’re a teenage girl or middle-aged woman, you can understand how fans of the genre have been upset lately. But have no fear, Jim Jarmusch, the writer/director of Only Lovers Left Alive, is here to save us from that world we live in.

The movie begins with opening credits that look like they’re right out of an old Hammer movie (a company famous for their horror films) before we’re introduced to our two main characters/vampires, Adam and Eve. Adam (Tom Hiddleston, better known as Loki) lives in Detroit and makes a living as an underground musician. His wife, Eve (Tilda Swinton), who he’s been married to for centuries, lives in Tangier. After talking to him over the phone, she thinks he is depressed and suicidal (which he is), so she flies out to be with him for a little while to cheer him up. They spend some time together, Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) visits for a short bit, then they fly back to Tangier to live together. That’s about it.

Only Lovers Left Alive could’ve turned into another generic vampire love movie, but it doesn’t for two reasons. One is the performances of the two lead stars, Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. You could really tell that these were two people who truly loved and cared for each other, but they never had to gush over themselves to show it. There were never big romantic scenes or tearful professions of their feelings. Instead, we are treated to simple scenes of them alone, walking around Detroit at night. And it’s in these scenes that we understand where the movie gets its title, because in those moments it feels as if they are the only lovers left alive.

The second reason is because of Jim Jarmusch’s careful treatment of the story. Jarmusch is famous for making movies with little to no plot or action, and Only Lovers is no exception. Nothing much happens except for when Ava comes into the story. But even then it’s still very minimal and uneventful. The few killings that do happen all occur off-screen. Jarmusch even finds the most anticlimactic way for Adam and Eve to get blood. Rather than kill humans (or zombies, as they’re referred to in this movie), Adam has a friend who works in a hospital and just sells him bottles of blood like its wine.

With the exclusion of any action, we’re forced to solely pay attention to the main characters and not be distracted by any other things going on. This is the way Jarmusch wants it. He’s not interested in bloodsucking and murders, he’s interested in the fact that these are people who have been alive for several hundred years and are becoming bored with life. Some may find this boring. I found it fascinating.

If you’ve never seen a Jarmusch movie before, don’t start here. His movies range from the almost mainstream (Ghost Dog, Broken Flowers) to the full-blown art house indie (Stranger Than Paradise), and this is one of his more indie projects. But if you’re already a fan or looking for something new, Only Lovers Left Alive is something to be treasured.

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