Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska
Running time: 123 mins
Release date: February 21st
A vampire romance that is neither scary nor particularly funny, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is a playful endeavour that will appeal to some but is let down by a lack of coherence and its own inherent smugness.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a musician living the life of a recluse in Detroit. He keeps the curtains drawn, rarely goes outdoors and spends his time alone with his musical instruments. His lover, Eve (Tilda Swinton) is across the oceans in Tangier. She becomes concerned for his welfare and travels to the US to be with him. But the pair’s newfound sense of harmony is disrupted when Eve’s wrecking ball of a sister, Eva (Mia Wasikowska), arrives.
It all amounts to a fairly pedestrian plot, the only unorthodox aspect being the fact that Adam and Eve are vampires who have been lovers for hundreds of years. They rely on a steady supply of blood to survive, and in the modern world the best way to procure it is through contacts on the black market rather than by attacking random punters under cover of darkness.
The lovers’ vampire status offers the window for the film’s humour to shine through—some will find the gags clever while others might be inclined to think of them as irritatingly unimaginative. There are plenty of not-so-subtle in-jokes—their names are Adam and Eve, their passport pseudonyms Stephen Daedalus and Daisy Buchanan. When Adam goes on a blood-sourcing mission to a hospital disguised as a medic he calls himself ‘Dr Faust’. He and Eve often reminisce about ‘the old days’ and about spending time with poets Shelley and Byron. Over a game of chess, Eve asks Adam what Byron was like. He tells her that he was ‘a pompous little ass’. Hilarious indeed.
This merging of fantasy with reality has a contrived feel to it. One minute they are recalling life through the centuries, the next they are talking about downloading music and discovering new sounds on YouTube in an obvious attempt to elicit laughter. Adam has based himself in Detroit, the poster child for American post-industrial decay. Does that equate to a form of social commentary on Jarmusch’s part? Who knows. When showing Eve around the city, Adam stops outside a house and tells her that it is Jack White’s residence before pulling off again. All very random.
The acting is deliberately wooden, the script unremarkable, and the end result unsatisfying. Much of the delivery feels forced, to the extent that when the characters use swearwords it doesn’t even come off as natural. Everything is dreary and although the film clocks in at over two hours long, there are no real ups and downs.
Only Lovers Left Alive is very much an exercise in deadpan comedy. Admirers of Jarmusch’s work might well appreciate and even enjoy that aspect. But, when all is said and done, it is too aimless and pretentious to warrant a second thought.