One of the most baffling developments in recent years is the complete obsession that the world in general has undergone with regards to vampires. I remember when they popped up every now and again in some cult classic not many people even bothered to see. Now, every movie has them. Whole franchises are built around them. Every director wants to play with them. Teenagers want to look like them. Tweens swear undying devotion to them.
They make me sick.
In fact, there is no greater cinematic turn off to me than the presence of a vampire, for at this point I’m burnt out, and the funny thing is that I haven’t watched any of those ‘Twilight’ movies so I really have no reason to be burnt out. I’m just sick and tired of hearing about them.
Despite all of that, I have to admit that ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ certainly intrigued me. Tilda Swinton always peaks my interest, for her ability to float from quality project and interesting character to completely diverse yet equally interesting character in yet another quality project is just remarkable. She gets it, and so whenever I see her name pop up on a marquee (do they even have those anymore?) I’m sold.
Swinton, musicians, vampires, my recent interest in Hiddelston, the fact that Jarmusch is directing this, and he’s one of those directors with distinct vision; all of these things added up to the fact that I was ultimately going to see this and most likely embrace it. ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ certainly has vision, or at least a visual flare, but for me there was something lacking, something missing from the finished product. It spoke with a clear tone, a languid and inviting tone, and it possessed a real electric presence, but when the dust cleared and the film ended, the themes of loneliness and undying love feel underdeveloped, malnourished almost. The abrupt ending felt slightly out of place and somewhat tacked on, and yet I’m at a loss for how it could have ended differently. It just left me a tad cold.
That said, the story told of married vampires living separate eternities is extremely intriguing and definitely demands to be contemplated, frame for frame, and the compelling performances that circulate each scene build for a fulfilled ensemble. Hiddelston and Swinton complement each other well, portraying a pair that is suited for each other despite their obvious differences. Aptly named Adam and Eve, these lovers are drawn to each other’s souls despite their differing world observations, and the performances by Swinton and Hiddleston bring these characters to life.
For me though, the film belongs to Mia Wasikowska, who shows a side of herself I have yet to see. Her delicious line readings and slinky body language fill the frame and demand our attention. The film takes on a different life, a fuller, richer identity when she’s on screen, that the audience can feel the weight of her departure too strongly. When she’s gone (far too soon, I might add), we mourn.
For me, the film doesn’t quite recover from her absence, even though it has a lot more to say and her character really isn’t an important factor into the progression of this story.
This is one of those instances where the tone is so effective and yet the overall finished product suffers from complete reliance on that tone and underdeveloped themes unable to back up the said tone. It just feels rather hallow when it’s over, and for a film this drenched in atmosphere and intent, I expected to feel something stronger before the credits began to role.
I give it a B-. It has so much going for it, and from a technical standpoint and an ensemble perspective, it's a winner, but I just expected (and wanted) more. Oscar won't come close to this one, although it has some stunning music (including 'Hal', an impressive Original Song) and Wasikowska is certainly Oscar worthy here.