Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

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Director and writer Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a peculiar film regarding vampirism. And, as it most commonly is when submitting oneself to a piece from Jarmusch’s body of work, it’s a tough beast to tame. It tackles all the vampiric themes one would expect, undying love, an unquenchable thirst for healthy vitals, eternal existence, and so on. Yet, it’s the fresh, atypical, achromatic reality he brings to the sub-genre that sets “Only Lovers Left Alive” apart from the pack. Jarmusch manages to create and capture these blood-sucker trademarks with such a genuine, almost non-fictional authenticity that the ideal of a vampire transcends the fantastical realm into our own.

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“Only Lovers Left Alive” is subtle, self-referential, inter-textual, allusive, and most importantly, intelligent. Exploding with an entrancing musical score, gloomy visuals, and an engulfing atmosphere. But perhaps what’s most surprising is the dark, sly, morbid sense of humour present throughout the film’s runtime. For example, our anti-hero consistently likens the general human population to “zombies” and our species technological advances have never seemed so insignificant. Caught somewhere between the complexity of electricity and the emergence of the smartphone, there’s no shortage of witty jabs at our futuristic gadgets and their controlling, outdated prowess.

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Not stopping at our achievements, “Only Lovers Left Alive” continues to shine a harsh light on humankind’s shortcomings. With the persistent bashing of our kinds stupidity for dismissing and cutting those down who propel us forward, those who think differently…like scientists, musicians, and philosophers…humanities faults are never far from prominent here. We’ve even managed to contaminate our own blood, which doesn’t sit well with those who bare fangs, as it poisons them, leading to an arduously slow, painful death. Forcing those who want to stay healthy into obtaining uncontaminated blood from a secure, reliable source, which is always risky. There’s symbolism oozing from Jarmusch’s latest, one must only look.

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I can see how being alive for centuries, watching mankind progress at a crawl, might be frustrating. Hell, I can barely stand where we are currently or even look at where we’re heading without buckling…but I digress. There’s a beautiful theory, apart from Einstein’s Theory of Entanglement in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comparing blood and water as the basis for all life and sustenance, a kind of eternal currency, that’s absolutely transcendent. Make sure to gather all the pieces scattered throughout the dialogue to form the thesis when watching.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” has so much to offer, it needn’t be carried by its two leads, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Nevertheless, both Tom and Tilda can’t help but put the film on their backs. Hiddleston as Adam, a modern rock god, mopping around a gloomy apartment, suicidal, experimenting, and helplessly in love. Swinton as Eve, sniffing about for fresh sustenance, full of wisdom and love, “ruthless, brutal” as Hiddleston’s Adam claims in the film. Both look so lovely, calm, but underneath storms brew and an evil dormant. Hiddleston, who continues his rapid ascent to the mainstream, is nothing short of marvellous and Swinton matches her co-star stride for stride. Never faltering under the obscurity, complexity, and weight of “Only Lovers Left Alive,” Swinton and Hiddleston run the show.

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Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, Jeffery Wright, and William Hurt round out the cast and provide a much needed chaotic, grounded, human element to their cold-blooded, nocturnal co-stars and the film as a whole. Apart from Wasikowska, the supporting staff doesn’t garner much screen time, yet fulfill their limited duties with a very predictable capability. There’s a fear radiating from the supporting ensemble that the viewer can sympathize with, a need to tread lightly when in the company of these mysterious, stoic beings, which we can abide by. They’re never out of place or speak unless spoken to. Their performances are hypnotic, fragile, terrified.

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Not simply a story with characters and structure, rather, Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” has a point to make. Its unnerving, smart, haunting, and beautiful, a toxic cocktail that tastes too good to put down.

Only Lovers Left Alive: 8.5 out of 10.

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About Joseph@thecinemamonster

Aspiring writer who absolutely adores film and television. thecinemamonster.com

Posted on February 18, 2014, in Drama and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. WHEN DID YOU SEE THIS???

  2. I can’t wait to see this!

  3. Great review. I love Jarmusch, generally speaking. And am reasonably confident I will like this flick when I finally have opportunity to see it.

  4. Outstanding work Joseph! As a big fan of Jarmusch’s films I’m very eager to see this.

  5. Seen the trailer for this the other day at the cinema and it really stood out, radiating from the rest. I’m a big fan if Tom Hiddleston (who isn’t), so looking forward to catching this one. Great review!

    Adam.

  6. Jarmusch is back! Get in! This is the first piece I’ve read about his latest and I’m so stoked after reading it. Ace stuff my friend.

  7. Excellent review, jealous you’ve already seen it! I’ll see anything with Tilda Swinton in, and I’m really looking forward to this one,

  8. Really looking forward to this.

  9. Fantastic review, Joe! I really want to see this. Love the trailer they released a couple weeks ago, and I’m a fan of the cast, especially Hiddleston.

  10. Great review. Looking forward to seeing this one. Sounds like one of the best vampire movies we seen lately.

  11. Really can’t wait for this one, one of my most anticipated of the next couple of months. Nicely reviewed mate.

  12. Great review! It’s so good to hear this about the film!

  13. This is an excellent review Joseph, really looks like something I need to be checking out!

  14. I can’t wait to see this! Thanks for “ruining” my day with that popsicle pic. Gosh! Yeah, I kinda like Hiddleston… Thanks for the review!

  15. I liked the film a bit less than you did, mainly because I had a problem with Adam’s tortured persona and the weakness of the script in this regard – even thinking about perishing while having such strong love for Eve was not realistic and came off as annoying. I did love Eve, though, and because most of the good writing went to her Swinton was the best part of the movie for me as was great soundtrack,

    • I thought Jarmusch did a good job in depicting Adam’s melancholic personality and the reasons behind it, as I tried to explain in the review. I can see how his love for Eve contradicts this to a point of non-sense, but the contrast it creates I find to be entangling, hypnotic.

      Eve certainly has a more down-to-earth, well-thought-out character, but I found her less interesting compared to Adam. Completely agree, the soundtrack is remarkable! Thanks for reading :).

  16. Never heard of this one. I’m going to seek it out. Thanks!

  17. Argh want to seeee! Too bad it doesn’t hit the States until April. :/ And even then who knows if it’ll come to my local theater? Nice review, my friend. You’ve got me anxious to see it!

  18. Awesome review! This looks so cool! I love vampire flicks and this one has an amazing cast as well 🙂 I’ll try to check this out.

  19. Only Lovers Left Alive is far from a masterpiece and can often feel quite dull at times. However, it is an interesting film that brings up some relevant philosophical issues about life and the kind of world we live in. Hiddleston and Swinton work beautifully together portraying an odd, yet compelling couple who have dealt with so much, and conquered it. Jim Jarmusch invites the audience to analyse their own faults, desires and needs. Glad you liked it, and what a great review!

    • Terrific analysis! I’m in agreement with everything you’ve said lol. It isn’t a masterpiece, like you said, but I think it’ll reach cult status eventually. Hiddleston and Swinton are marvellous and Jarmusch really creates a thought-provoking piece here. Thanks for reading :).

  20. The discussion on the shrinking supplies of water is quite frightening, but if you can suck on a blood icy-pole, everything should be fine. Great piece Cinema Monster!

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