Only Lovers Left Alive
Is eternal life a blessing when you have to repeatedly embrace the collective ignorance of mankind?
Director/Writer Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is a modern-day environmentalists fable wrapped around the fate of struggling vampires. With our ice packs melting, cities like Beijing and Salt Lake City mired in air pollution and water contamination penetrating every river in the United States, what happens to vampires when the blood supply provided by humans can be as devastating as unprotected sex?
In this case, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play vampire lovers named Adam and Eve who have been alive for centuries. Adam is chronically depressed living in Detroit, but who wouldn’t be? Eve lives in Morocco and embraces her lifestyle. On the other hand, they desperately miss one another, and are truly only at ease in each other’s arms.
What haunts them both is the inability to obtain blood that won’t poison them. Resorting to the black market, Eve obtains her supply from John Hurt, a living Christopher Marlowe who hides both his ancient identity and the fact that he is also a creature of darkness.
Mr. Hiddleston’s Adam is a devout lover of music who is able to obtain his blood supply from a money-grubbing Dr. Watson, played with a comic sense of charm by Jeffrey Wright. Adam, dressed as a physician, appears in the hospital employing Dr. Watson, his name tag reflecting the ironic identity of Dr. Faust. These guys have a great sense of history, not the least reason being that they have lived it.
Profoundly missing each other, Eve flies at night to Detroit to unite with Adam. Their life comes dramatically unglued when Eve’s twisted vampire sister, Ava, comes knocking. Mia Wasikowska is a clueless Ava, a young woman prone to bite the neck of the nearest male. She’s like a wild child inhabiting New York’s dark theater district in the 1970’s.
Anton Yelchin is also quite good, here playing Ian, a likeable human who supplies the musically inclined Adam with various guitars and other needs. Unfortunately, Ava is seemingly attracted to Ian, which is likely to leave the poor boy with more than hickeys on his neck.
Tilda Swinton continues her iconoclastic adventure through the movie industry with her role as a sexual vampire with flowing blonde hair that makes her appear to be a fan of Janis Joplin. She is constantly embracing the unexpected as seen by her roles in this year’s The Grand Budapest Hotel; Moonrise Kingdom (2012); playing the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia films (2005-2010); The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008); Thumbsucker (2005); The Deep End (2001) and Orlando (1992). On top of that, she is the hottest 53-year old actress working today.
The young Mr. Yelchin is also a talented man whose career is on the rise. Think of his performances as Chekov in the recent Star Trek films, as well as his contribution to the underrated Fright Night (2011).
As for Ms. Wasikowska, who also happens to be the same age as Mr. Yelchin (24), she brings a mystifying presence to the big screen. She stood out in the lightweight Stoker (2013); the brilliant Lawless (2012); the lead character in Jane Eyre (2011); Alice in Alice in Wonderland (2010) and the daughter in the very funny drama The Kids Are All Right (2010). If I was a young man in her company, I would gladly risk death if she wanted to kiss my neck.
But as good as the other actors are, it is Mr. Hiddleston who serves as the anchor for the entire film. To begin with, most of you will remember his wondrous ability to bring a comic edge to a dark villain in both Thor films (2011 and 2013). Here, he groans and sulks through the entire film, disgusted by mankind’s inability to remotely improve over the centuries.
As he watches the environment stagnate around the globe, Adam cryptically notes that it is no different than when Galileo was incarcerated and Copernicus was considered a fool. He then tellingly notes that Darwin is still being rejected in many parts of the United States without the slightest concern.
Dracula would have viewed these descendants with justifiable pride.
Very slow and lax, however, I think that’s what worked best for the movie, as well as these characters. It allows us to sympathize and even like them, despite them being vampires who need a quenching for blood. Good review.