Film, Drama
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

‘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

Release date:
Friday May 31 2013
118 mins

Cast and crew

Neil Jordan
Gemma Arterton
Saoirse Ronan
Jonny Lee Miller
Tom Hollander
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