Film, Drama
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‘Byzantium’ is possibly the first vampire movie to feature death by fingernail. Here, instead of sinking fangs into their victims, the undead unfurl a nifty retractable thumbnail (pointy, like Rihanna’s). Neil Jordan’s film also scores a first with its mother and daughter vampire storyline. Gemma Arterton plays 200-year-old Clara – a no-nonsense survivor who supports her daughter by working as a prostitute. Forever 16, Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) is more of the tortured, conflicted vampire type – a one-woman euthanasia programme, she only kills the sick and elderly. Clara and Eleanor have been bickering for two centuries.

Their story begins in the early 1800s, when Clara is raped and forced into prostitution by a sadistic, heartless army officer (Jonny Lee Miller). The stage is set for a twisted gothic tale. But the modern story is shapeless and not nearly as chilling: Eleanor meets a boy with leukemia; Clara opens a brothel in a hotel called the Byzantium in a faded English seaside town and fights off a shadowy network of priestly men in black.

In ‘Twilight’ the will-he-won’t-he-bite-her saga was a metaphor for sex. Here’s there’s a feminist twist. Like an avenging angel, Clara feeds on men who’ve exploited women: pimps and rapists. Shame, then, that for so much of the film she’s strapped into a corset and suspenders. And what’s really missing is the vampire’s tragedy: that ache, the loss of feeling, the sense that in killing death, the essence of what it is to be human is destroyed. Now, will someone please drive a stake through the heart of the next director who suggests making a vampire film. 

By: Cath Clarke


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday May 31 2013
Duration: 118 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Neil Jordan
Cast: Gemma Arterton
Saoirse Ronan
Jonny Lee Miller
Tom Hollander

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 2 star:1
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2 people listening

This was a really great film.  The negative reviewers have their panties in a bunch right now so don't pay any attention to them.

I actually quite liked this film. It was different in all aspects. Remembering that it is a 15 certificate, I think it was kind of risqué, ya know? I liked all of it, even the kind of slowness of the film, because it kinda gave it from her P.O.V. Storyline was different, and if they wanted, they could probably make another.

0 of 1 found helpful

So-so vampire flick needing a good half an hour lopped off its running time.

0 of 1 found helpful

Oh dear. Having sat through half a dozen identikit horror trailers I had a sense of impending doom as the film has obviously been sold as a horror flick. The sad thing it isn't really anything but slow and dull. There isn't enough horror to keep the horror fans happy, there isn't enough moony eyed rubbish to please the twilight fans and despite regular shots of Arterton's heaving bosom there isn't enough sex to tittilate either of them or teenage boys. There are plenty of well known British character actors who should know better than to appear in this sort of stuff and I doubt it will do much for Arterton or Ronan's careers. A film a grey and miserable as the weather seemed to be for much of the time this was filmed. A poor 2 star film.