Jim Jarmusch's smacked-out vampire movie 'Only Lovers Left Alive' starts with a close-up of a seven-inch single spinning on a turntable. Which is apt, as this slim, dreamy film demands that you kick back and slip into its slow, deadpan groove if it's not going to drive you completely mad. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are Adam and Eve, a married vampire couple of many centuries standing. He's depressed and surrounded by records and guitars in a Gothic house in Detroit; she's living in a flat in Tangier. They've seen it all and met everyone – the English civil war, Franz Schubert – and life's taken on a fin-de-siècle, morose air.
Jarmusch's film looks beautiful and has a groovy nighttime air to it, especially when Adam and Eve drive about the ruins of Detroit at night in Adam's white Jaguar XJS. These scenes could be the hippest travelogue moments ever committed to screen. But 'Only Lovers Left Alive' drags its feet and shows serious signs of anaemia as a story. Really, though, Jarmusch doesn't seem too concerned with story at all, and he rarely has been, with some of his films like 'Coffee and Cigarettes', 'Mystery Train' and 'Night on Earth' dispensing altogether with the pretence that the feature-length work is his strength.
At times it feels like a great idea, atmospherically realised, worryingly diluted. Too many times we hear references to getting up at dusk and going to bed at dawn; the talk of humans as zombies is repetitive (even if tagging Los Angeles as 'zombie central' is brilliant); and the century-hopping namedropping becomes a little tiresome, even if it's a good gag at first. Brief appearances from Mia Wasikowska as Eve's less mature sister Ava (she still drinks blood at the source), Anton Yelchin as Adam's rocker pal Ian and John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe lift the film out of its stylish torpor, and maybe one or two more appearances like this would have given it a boost.
But there's still something magical and magnetic about this world of mature, know-it-all, ultra-cool vampires that Jarmusch creates and somehow it never seems at all silly. On the contrary, we come to see them as something like cultured heroin addicts – extremely well-read and fine company, but always looking over your shoulder for the next fix. They are a refined sort. They procure their blood on the black market (Adam is in cahoots with a hospital doctor, played by Jeffrey Wright), they recall their friendships with Byron and Shelley, they muse over colourful wild mushrooms ('Just goes to show: we don't know shit about fungi,' says Adam deadly seriously) and they discuss science and planets. If this is partly a compendium of Jarmusch's arcane knowledge, then Hiddleston and Swinton, dressed to impress and both totally suited to the other-wordly but tender nature of their characters, are surely the guys to share it with us.
Cast and crew