Esteban Gonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
“How could you have lived so long and still not get it?”
Jim Jarmusch brings a fresh spin to the very familiar vampire tale and delivers a solid and unique film that is unlike any other from the genre. Only Lovers Left Alive will stand alone considering it lacks the horror and action elements that the classic vampire films always introduce, and it also avoids the romantic cliches as well. It is an existential vampire film where you have two very distinct characters. On the one hand there is Tom Hiddleston’s character who has been around for centuries and is living in Detroit along with his growing music collection. He has grown weary with the way humans (or as he calls them: zombies) are living and has this nostalgic sense of the past, which explains why he collects several instruments from the early 1900’s. He seems to be depressed and simply disillusioned towards the modern world. On the other hand, his wife played by Tilda Swinton is living in Tangier, and she continues to enjoy the basic things in life. She loves to read and seems to have adapted well to the new world. When she realizes that her husband is getting depressed she decides to travel to Detroit to see if she can cheer him up. Most of the film focuses on Hiddleston’s existential crisis and serves as an excuse for Jarmusch to talk about art and culture. Many people might find this pretentious, but it works because you are reminded that these characters have been living for centuries and have actually met some of these artists and scientists they are referring to. The way in which Jarmusch builds these characters is also fascinating. The idea of the vampires having this sort of rockstar look to them is great and the way they seem to get high when they drink blood was also a very clever touch. There is no action here because these vampires aren’t feeding off people, they simply have their resources for buying blood.
It’s the small moments that work extremely well in the film and the performances are fantastic. Hiddleston and Swinton are perfectly cast for their roles and both share an incredible chemistry on screen. They’ve been together for centuries so there is no tension in the relationship and they read each other perfectly. However when Swinton’s smaller sister (Played by Mia Wasikowska) shows up things begin to get interesting. Wasikowska is also great in this film and she does a convincing job playing this immature and pain in the neck little sister. There are also some strong supporting performances from John Hurt and Anton Yelchin. The cast is excellent in the film and with the strong script they all shine in this unique indie movie. I went into it knowing almost nothing about the film and I think it is the best way to approach it because the world created by Jarmusch is quite interesting. I had heard a lot about the director, but this was the first time I actually saw a film of his and I’m surprised I enjoyed it so much because I don’t consider myself a fan of the genre and I do tend to find existential films pretentious at times, but here it works. It is very elegant, cool, and stylish.