Jim Jarmusch’s new film was chosen as the Cult Gala for the London Film Festival and it certainly presses all the buttons to be a cult classic. Lukewarm one liners, a superfluous supernatural element and a star with an obsessively devoted fanbase.
Visually, the film is very impressive, the opening few shots are totally engaging and this stylish cinematography stays throughout the film. Unfortunately the plot is nowhere near as impressive. The conceit of the film, in that our protagonists are vampires, is utterly pointless. Every single aspect of this story could be told without any vampires. However, removing this conceit shows up the film for what it really is, a banal, middle of the road, sitcom. However, even with the vampires Only Lovers Left Alive is barely funny and seems to rely on being “quirky” and “awkward” in the place of supplying the audience with any substance. Of course the whole film is set at night which means that 90% of the time the screen is dominated by black, dark brown and dark green, not least provided by Tom Hiddleston’s hair. Given that Hiddleston’s hair already has its own tumblr page there’s no doubt that this “emo rocker” style will gather a few new viewers.
No doubt the teenage girls who adopt this film (being too old for twilight) will champion the discussion of “real issues”. The film touches superficially on the wastefulness of humans and seems to champion love regardless of age or distance. These are not new issues. These are not groundbreaking or interesting issues. However, they are hip, liberal, teenage issues. Soon enough you will find yourself on the internet watching a GIF of Hiddleston and Swinton with the caption #trueloveknowsnodistance #ageisjustanumber. Once more Jarmusch has demonstrated an infallible ability to corner a market and pin it in place as it consumes every aspect of his niche film.
The performances in this film are difficult to judge. Every actor carries the burden of being self-aware and nonchalant in every scene. It gets very tiring to watch everybody on screen be so painfully aware of how funny they are. This is despite the fact that most of the humour follows the “oh look those words imply something different to normal because vampires” or indeed just involves pointing a camera at either Hiddleston or Swinton looking out of place and hoping it’s funny. A light interlude from Mia Wasikowska is a welcome break from the self-importance of the first act but is cut short to make way for some more moody lighting and jokes where blood is referred to as if it were drugs. There are people who will love this film, however, I am not one of those people. Cinematography can only carry a film so far, there has to be something, anything to make it worth watching.
- Entertainment: 2/5
- Artistic: 3/5
- Intellectual: 1/5
P.S. I wish I could say I had planned to release a review of a vampire film on Halloween. As it happens, enjoy the happy coincidence.