Only Lovers Left Alive


Release: Friday, April 11, 2014 (limited)


Written by: Jim Jarmusch

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

Vampires have never seemed as hipster as they do in Jim Jarmusch’s beautifully framed and deliberately paced tale of two long-time lovers reuniting in Detroit — but in an incredible twist of fate script they have also never seemed so appealing.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are in a romance so convincing their performances transcend faking attachment at the hip. Hiddleston’s unkempt Adam and Swinton’s fragile but unbroken Eve — don’t worry, the names are tongue-in-cheek — coalesce on a spiritual level we can’t help but believe wholeheartedly. If you can quash the temptation to label them as the most anti-social couple of all time (or at least since the 16th Century) you’ve won half the battle that is the challenge to the perception of the vampiric legend that is Only Lovers Left Alive.

The second half of the battle is accessing the conclusion of the film, a galvanizing reflection on the “gift” of mortality. Being mortal may suck, but probably not as much as sucking blood for to stick around longer to see what, if anything, about eternity might change, sucks. For this is a slow-burn, a candle-wax dripping kind of slow that will have some feeling as though they are macraméing themselves to their couch. Hipster me loves the pacing, the tedium of old souls scourging the Earth for something new to invigorate their old-fashioned sensibilities while they reap the benefits of humans (a.k.a. ‘zombies’) making short work of destroying themselves through selfishness, bitterness and open hostility. It’s a challenge to be sure, but the reward gained from enduring is a vampiric cinematic experience unlike anything else.

Only Lovers is not as static as it sounds. Jim Jarmusch, both writer and director of this offbeat little gem, throws a kink in the perpetually unaddressed ‘vampiric’ lifestyle in the form of Mia Wasikowska’s much younger and more reckless Ava, sister of Eve. When she randomly shows up in Adam’s secret hideaway — a cramped space more akin to a hoarder’s cavern — she threatens to expose the pair’s identity to the world at large. For presumably decades, perhaps centuries, Adam’s been impressively fending off any curious passersby who have dared approach his stoop and now, this relative adolescent is about to be his and his beloved’s downfall? He’ll be fanged if it happens on his watch.

(In)accessibility is part of Only Lovers‘ hipster appeal, and because it is, I ought to embellish on my introductory statements, lest I be mistaken for one myself. If you don’t “get” this film, then you’re just not cool enough . . .

No, but seriously. I’ve taken off my thick wire-framed glasses and am prepared to give this film a proper look. It’s a sluggish, stubborn film, even for someone who enjoys the slow burn. And Only Lovers lacks the crackling power at the end of the fuse and if you so much as yawn during any given moment you’re likely to miss something that adds to this collage of atmospheric production and refined performance. I guess what I’m saying is that for every reason Jarmusch’s commitment to the offbeat is effective it is also polarizing. That’s a shame when this movie is this well-acted and cast. It also finds profundity in the decrepitude of a Detroit reeling in the economic collapse of 2008/2009. A former car manufacturing plant is converted into a gothic cathedral wherein our leads find solace and serves as one of the film’s more impressive set pieces.

Perhaps what is most admirable about this non-conformer is its odd sense of humor. Without this Only Lovers would be labeled an obtuse, pretentious bit of film, unable or even unwilling to harness its true potential. But because vampires refer to us mere mortals as the weird ones; because Anton Yelchin’s Ian, guitar enthusiast and friend of Adam, is too ignorant for his own good, there is a thread of commonality that unites vampire and zombie. The weirdness is most certainly accessible to the open-minded. Jim Jarmusch is inviting those who are curious inside his unique little world with fantastic performances and beautifully realized settings alike.


3-5Recommendation: Only Lovers Left Alive is a film not just for the fang-toothed. I just checked in the mirror; I am sadly (fortunately?) without any. It needs to be said I’m not really faithful to vampire films. In fact, I have a great distaste for them. I find the genre more cliched than romance and action films combined, yet I now find a soft spot for this one. As The National’s very own Matt Berninger sings, I’m on a blood buzz. Yes I am. I’m on a blood buzz. Don’t worry, that’s not supposed to mean anything. I just wanted an excuse to include those awesome lyrics.

Rated: R

Running Time: 123 mins.

Quoted: “Please, feel free to piss in my garden.”

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18 thoughts on “Only Lovers Left Alive

  1. Pingback: Top That: Ten Actors Who Clearly Love their Job | digitalshortbread

    • It’s worth a look-see for the performances alone in my book. I’m not sure how you feel about vampire films but this is a definitely different approach. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment!! 🙂


  2. I really liked the slow burn too; in fact it’s hard to think of a film from the past 12 months that’s quite as atmospheric as this one, thanks mainly to the production design and the soundtrack. I really enjoyed watching it because of that atmosphere, as well as the two lead performances.


    • Yeah, atmosphere is everything in Only Lovers Left Alive. I also got along quite well with the performances and it was surprisingly funny. Good to know we’re on the same page here dude. It seems to be one of those films people either love or really can’t stand.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a strange one, I’ll say that much man. But if curious, I’d say give it a go! Thanks for dropping and saying hey!


  3. I love this film so much. Like you I’m not a fan of vampire movies but this is so much more than just that. Some great commentary, two phenomenal central performances, and a cool factor beyond anything I saw last year. It was a favorite of mine from 2014.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those were definitely all the things that made this a treat for me to watch too, Keith. Initially I was put off by its methodical pace but I grew to really love how much it kept absorbing me into this weird, brooding world. Loved the Detroit backdrop too. Great, great little film that I feel has undeserved poor reputation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s funny, the movie seemed to just fall off the radar. Come end of the year very few people were talking about it. I think I had it at number five on my end of the year list. Really loved it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent review, wow I really should give this movie a chance. I’ve read previous reviews that also mentioned the slow burn and at times nothing happens just the actors staring, so I think that held me back from getting around to it sooner. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks man. Only Lovers can be a tough egg to crack but I really quite enjoyed it. In fact it’s growing more and more on me the more I think back on it. I understand it’s not a film for all though.


    • Yeah Dan I couldn’t agree more on that! It’s well-performed and this is my first Jim Jarmusch movie! I’m excited to discover more from him!


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