Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive (15)

Jim Jarmusch takes on the vampire mythos and this is the result: an odd, rambling, ethereal tale of eternal lovers forever running from the sun.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are the vampires who reunite and head to Europe for sustenance. There they hope to meet Marlowe, another charming and witty survivor of the old days who has a controlled cure for their thirst. Naturally, it goes wrong.

Jarmusch is a master of skewed filmmaking. If he taps into a genre it is always with a sideways glance at what has gone before. Here he avoids clichés and established movie lore. His partners in blood have long since moved beyond preying on humankind.

Thus the archetypes laid down by Bram Stoker and Anne Rice are ignored. Adam and Eve (Hiddleston and Swinton) roam the planet looking not for victims but for a cure for boredom. Theirs is a shared life ruled by encroaching ennui. And it is threatened by the arrival of Eve’s wayward sister (Mia Wasikowska).

Jarmusch scatters his tale with intriguing cameos and guest shots. John Hurt plays the elegantly wasted Marlowe, Jeffrey Wright is Dr Watson, the man who can source their elixir of life, and Anton Yelchin is Ian, an enthusiastic hanger-on who comes to a bad end. (“You drank Ian!” yells an incredulous Adam in what is a typically Jarmuschian moment).

As the loved-up vampire duo Hiddleston (masquerading as a reclusive rocker) and Swinton enjoy a deliciously cold chemistry as well as an understanding borne of 200 years of shared jeopardy.

A sequence in which they stagger through the streets of a darkened city, eager for blood but desperate not to feed on people, is played out as an anti-vampire story. Pallid Swinton is perfectly cast and Hiddleston breaks free of comic-strip fare for a role that he can really get his teeth into.

Star rating: ****

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