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Friday, October 11, 2013


Left to right: Tilda Swinton as Eve and Tom Hiddleston as Adam
Photo by Gordon A. Timpen 
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

2013, 123 minutes
Rated R for language and brief nudity

Review by Joshua Handler

Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive features the most original take on the vampire genre I've seen, as it is a story about humans that just happen to survive on blood and live forever, not creatures who live to kill people.  These vampires get their blood from hospitals' blood reserves, not directly from humans. In fact, this could be classified as a pacifist vampire film, as the vampires avoid killing humans for blood at almost all costs.

Only Lovers Left Alive follows the story of two vampire lovers, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), as they reunite in Detroit and live out some of their never-ending life there at Adam's home discussing the historical figures they've met and enjoying each other's company.  

While the vampire aspect of Only Lovers plays a role in the film, Jarmusch treats Adam and Eve as people who are doomed to live forever together in the shadows.  Adam and Eve only have each other and it is this lonely existence and their deep love for each other that keeps them together.  Jarmusch infuses this love story with an abundance of cleverly-placed literary references (John Hurt plays Eve's friend Christopher Marlowe, the famed Elizabethan tragedian) that add to the richness and playfulness of the film's narrative.  The humor in Only Lovers is very dry, but played to perfection by Hiddleston and Swinton.

Jarmusch adds a unique sense of style that shows in every frame of this film, from the fun '80s music that plays over much of the film to the gorgeous swirling overhead shots of Adam, Eve, and a record playing that open the film.  This style adds to the hypnotic experience that is Only Lovers Left Alive.

Swinton and Hiddleston are dryly charming as Eve and Adam, respectively, and have believable chemistry.  Adam and Eve are two opposites who have been together for a long time and Swinton and Hiddleston completely convinced me that their characters had actually been together for centuries.  They seemed to know each other's every move and every word.  The two actors play off of each other brilliantly and it is a pleasure to watch them deliver their lines with a dry wit and sharp precision.

Overall, Only Lovers Left Alive was a treat to watch.  While the pace occasionally sagged, the film kept me engaged with its original screenplay, its odd charm, and most importantly, its humanity.  This film won't be for everyone, but for Jarmusch fans, literature lovers, or those who just want something fun and different, this is a must-see.  The last shot is an absolute kill.


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