Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is the ultimate hipster vampire film, with pretentious exclusivity in musical preferences taking up more of the film’s running time than anything vampire related. This is perhaps the only vampire film I can think of without a single onscreen vampire bite, and the film’s only death occurring in-between scenes shown. Blood is a source of sustenance, but also becomes another area of exclusivity, with only a strong connection providing the type of choice. Taking the sustenance straight from the source is for the less refined vampires.
Although genre fans are likely to be disappointed by the lack of excitement in this non-horrific monster movie, Jarmusch’s laid-back pacing is perfectly suited for displaying the lack of urgency in a creature that has an eternity to live. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton star as the transparently named vampire lovers, Adam and Eve. At the beginning of the film Adam is struggling with depression, even purchasing a custom made wooden bullet in preparation of a suicide attempt which does not come. Instead, his longtime lover arrives to give him comfort.
Much of the film is spent watching Adam and Eve lounge in their sheik home furnishings, listening to music and pontificating about art and literature. Adam collects vintage musical instruments, while Eve has a library of first-edition books. They have not only collected items from their years living through them, they also seek them out in a sense of nostalgia. This would be the entire film if it weren’t for a brief but effectively irritating visit from Eve’s reckless vampire sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska).
There are other brief relationships in the film, mostly allowing Eve and Adam opportunities to have clever conversations with other characters. These include the musician friend that brings Adam unique guitars that he discovers (played by Anton Yelchin), the suspicious doctor providing him with blood (Jeffrey Wright), and fellow vampire and legendary writer, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt). The plot meanders through conversations involving these characters, but little happens for much of the length 123-minute run time. Fans of Jarmusch will be satisfied with the hip music and cinematography that make this appear to be a rock-in-roll drug film with human blood rather than heroin, while genre lovers would be best suited searching elsewhere for a vampire movie.
The DVD special features include a handful of deleted and extended scenes, as well as a featurette with Jarmusch and a Yasmine Hamden music video.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 6.5/10