Vampires were so 20th Century.
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires living in the 21st Century. They’re both in love, married and have been living for a very long awhile, and it’s sort of beginning to take a toll on them. Maybe less so on Eve as she’s just happy with the way life has turned out for her and spends her nights reading, walking through the streets of Tangier, and meeting up with her blood supplier, Kid (John Hurt). As for Adam, however, he’s a bit less happy with life. He’s dark, moody and all alone, living in Detroit, yet, he makes music for the underground scene that is a big hit amongst the cool crowd, even though most of them don’t know who he is or where he lives. He too has a blood supplier in the form of Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright), in which he pays the big bucks to keep his life going on even longer. Problem is, he’s starting to feel like life really isn’t worth living, which is when Eve decides to come up to Detroit and visit him, where they hang around, drive, listen to music and get an unexpected visit from her sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who causes all sorts of trouble for them.
I don’t think I stand alone when I say that I am absolutely tired of vampire movies. Nor do I really want to think of one directed by Jim Jarmusch – the kind of director I get and understand his intentions with certain movies, but I still don’t really know if I “like”. So, with those two aspects put together, I knew one thing for certain: I was not looking forward to this. But, being the type of dedicated movie-lover I am, I gave it a watch and believe it or not, things came out a lot better than I expected.
For starters, this is definitely not the type of vampire movie I was expecting to see. There’s barely any bystanders getting bitten in the necks, hardly any violence, and only small doses of blood being shown to us. Other than that, everything’s pretty laid-back, cool and calm, in a way that I expected to see Jarmusch use. However, it never felt meandering here like it has with many of his past flicks; much rather, it seemed like Jarmusch had a reason to slow down the pace of this movie. Not to just pay attention to these characters and give us sympathetic blood-suckers, but actually shed a light on the world around us.
See, if you think about it, the way this movie frames both Adam and Eve (geddit!?!?!) is that they’re, essentially, the two, biggest hipsters of the 21st Century. They think they are better than everybody, refer to humans as “zombies”, listen to obscure, R&B hits from the 60’s and 70’s, where sunglasses wherever they go (mostly at night, of course), and even discuss Nikola Tesla and Einstein. If those aren’t recipes for the two biggest tools on the face of the planet, then I have no clue what is.
But here’s the thing about this movie and these characters: They’re supposed to be like this. Vampires, especially these two in particular, are immortal and have lived through it all, seen it all, experienced it all, etc. So, it makes sense that they would not only talk so negatively about those that surround them that aren’t their kind, but also be able to talk about such historical-figures like Christopher Marlowe, or Shakespeare, or even Robert Schuman for that matter. If these two were two, actual human beings placed in some random indie, they’d be absolutely insufferable. However, since they are vampires and have been living, breathing and drinking other people’s blood for as long as time can go back to, they just seem like themselves, no frills attached.
Because of that, we not only like Adam and Eve, but sort of see what it is that they are saying about the world around them. Yes, humans as a species, are dumb and don’t always make the right choices. However, there’s also something about humanity and the way it can end seemingly at any second, that gives those reasons to live. We can enjoy life, hold it in our hands, and do whatever it is we want with it, because we all know that one day, it’s all going to end. It’s sad, but that’s the reality of life, man.
And with these two vampires, you can see that living through everything the world has brought to them, really is taking a toll on them. They’re not necessarily so tired with life that they want to end it any second (except maybe less so in Eve’s case than Adam’s), but they do feel as if they have so much damn time on their hands, that what is really the point of it all. It’s a sad existence those vampires are forced to live, which is why it’s easy to care for both Adam and Eve, if only because they know how to survive and do it the right way without anybody really getting hurt because of so.
Of course both Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are the main reasons why we feel this way towards Adam and Eve, but it’s also the way in which Jarmusch just keeps his attention solely on them, their daily-interactions and how it is they get by in life. He doesn’t necessarily change anything up about the conventions vampires have, but he does do some neat and cool things with the idea of having a vampire be, what is essentially a hipster living amongst everyday society. They’re almost human-like, except for the facts that they live off of blood, can’t let the sunlight hit them, walk into some place without being invited in, nor even see their reflections. However, it’s much less about these rules and standards that have been handed-down from the beginning of time that matter, and more about how these vampires are ones we actually care for and don’t totally loathe.
Take that, Bella and Edward!
Consensus: Slower than what most are used to expecting with movies about vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive shines an alluring eye on its sympathetic characters, while also realizing the realities they are placed into and why being human does matter, if it can be sometimes meaningless.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!