Only Lovers Left Alive

Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright

When it comes to movies, I love to be proven wrong.  I'm happy when a movie exceeds my expectations (provided that it's good).  I'm happy when a movie is not what I envisioned and is something different (better) altogether.  One thing I've noticed is that this happens far more often in independent cinema than mainstream.  I guess that shouldn't be shocking given the state of the film industry these days and the striking lack of originality at big Hollywood studios.  Take this weekend for instance.  I expected Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive to miss the mark.  The film looked to be a little too low-key for my taste based on the trailer.  Happily, I was proven wrong.

For centuries, vampire Adam (Tom Hiddleston) has dually contributed quite a bit to the worlds of science and music.  At this point, he lives life as a recluse in a derelict Detroit.  Though he occasionally makes music, he doesn't share it with anyone, even his go-to rocker, a kid by the name of Ian (Anton Yelchin).  Adam is so reclusive that he's built his own source of electricity so that he doesn't have to bother with the humans, to whom he mockingly refers as zombies.  For nourishment, he dresses up as a one Dr. Faust, goes to the hospital, and purchases blood from the unscrupulous Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright).  The reclusive lonely vampire is living a sad, dull life that just won't end.  With this in mind, Adam has his friend Ian go purchase a wooden bullet encased in brass metal.  Strangely, no questions are asked.

Eve (Tilda Swinton) is a vampire who lives in Tangier.  This free spirit frequently visits her friend Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), an aging "Shakespearean" vampire who supplies her with the good stuff from a French doctor.  Eve also just happens to be Adam's wife.  Missing her husband, she gives him a call one night.  It just so happens to be the very night he intends to put that wooden bullet to use.  Sensing something is awry, Eve immediately books a trip to Detroit to visit him.  When she arrives, the fun begins.  They dine on blood popsicles, play tense games of chess, and drive around the city at night.  Their fun comes to an end when Eve's sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) arrives and spoils everything.

The last place I expected to find a strong indictment of mankind and our poor stewardship of this planet we call home was a romantic vampire drama.  Through his mellow vampires, Jim Jarmusch has a lot to say about how we've failed to take care of this precious resource and how we've polluted it to death. Even more interesting, Jarmusch comments on how we haven't taken care of ourselves as we've polluted our own temples with all the chemicals we ingest.  This manifests itself in the film most notably through the notion that we've contaminated our blood supply.  Essentially, we've dirtied the blood these vampires drink because we haven't taken care of ourselves.  That's some inventive filmmaking right there.  Moreover, I have to respect anyone who can turn a vampire movie into social commentary as Jarmusch does with Only Lovers Left Alive.

At the core of this film, we have two rather soulful performances from stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.  As the film moves with a certain rhythmicity, so do Hiddleston and Swinton.  Hiddleston offers a self-destructive, self-loathing character who doesn't want to be in the world the zombies have made today.  Swinton, on the other hand, offers an artsy character who enjoys every moment of life and being out in the world.  Despite their relative youth, both make their characters feel like aging rockers in a very smooth way.  Beyond our two stars, we have John Hurt giving us one cool cat in Christopher Marlowe, a vampire who hilariously claims to have written Hamlet and most of William Shakespeare's other works.  Mia Wasikowska also gives a bubbly, effervescent performance as Eve's sister Ava, and Anton Yelchin gives a solid performance as rocker Ian.

All in all, Only Lovers Left Alive is an innovative, insightful vampire movie that leisurely serves up some heavy social commentary on the state of the world today.  Full of cool vampires and comical references to titans of academia, this romantic vampire drama definitely hits the mark.  Once again, I'm happy to be proven wrong.  Only Lovers Left Alive gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.