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Only Lovers Left Alive - Review

Only Lovers Left Alive

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

YOU can always tell a Jim Jarmusch film no matter what genre he’s working in by a leisurely sense of pacing, equally laid-back humour and a strong visual style.

But while certainly distinct, it can be polarising. The director’s latest, Only Lovers Left Alive, finds him taking on the vampire genre and showcases him at his best and worst.

On the plus side, the cast – comprising Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin – is great and on suitably strong form, while there’s some wonderfully dark humour (shot through with glib observations on humanity) and arresting visuals.

On the minus side, though, the lack of any real dramatic impetus, particularly during its laboured middle section, may drive some viewers to distraction. For a vampire tale, it lacks urgency. For a love story, it isn’t particularly emotionally compelling. But I guess those are the perils of genre subversion.

The story finds music-loving vampire Adam (Hiddleston) contemplating suicide and calling upon distant lover Eve (Swinton) to come and save him from his slumber. To add complications, both Adam and Eve must also contend with the re-appearance of Eve’s trouble-maker sister (Wasikowska), who is governed by her blood lust more than common sense.

Jarmusch’s film exists more on an existential level than anything horror and – like past hits Ghost Dog and Dead Man – succeeds in posing some playful questions (if he refers to his humans, is that how he sees us?).

It also benefits enormously from its talented cast, with Hiddleston standing out as the eerily enigmatic Adam (a thin White Duke of sorts), but offered plenty to work with by the likes of Swinton, Yelchin, Hurt and Wasikowska, all of whom have their moments.

It’s also refreshing to find someone willing to bring a fresh take to a genre that has been sucked fairly dry of late.

But approach with caution. This may well play best to Jarmusch purists, with those expecting something with a little more bite ultimately disappointed by the cumbersome pacing and barely there storytelling, especially given the overly generous running time. It remains a curiosity piece nonetheless.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 123mins
UK Release Date: February 21, 2014