It’s interesting to think how “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has impacted every vampire-related movie/show to come out in the past decade, from the forbidden romance in “Twilight” to the topical humor of “True Blood.” Even something as unique as “Only Lovers Left Alive” can be traced back to “Buffy.” The film is a bit like the episode, “Conversations with Dead People,” which satirized independent movies with a supernatural twist. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if writer/director Jim Jarmusch saw this episode and decided to put his own spin on the concept. What Jarmusch delivers is a smart romance that always feels honest, despite the fact that the lovers are both vampires.
Of course the word “vampire” is never used once in the film. It’s easy to assume the main characters are vampires, however, based on their pale skin, bloodlust, resistance to the sun, and fangs. One of these alleged vampires is Tom Hiddleston as Adam, a rocker vamp with a vast collection of records and guitars.
Tilda Swinton plays Adam’s much older vampire lover, Eve. Adam and Eve? One can’t help but wonder what kind of biblical symbolism their names are supposed to carry. The screenplay doesn’t reveal a ton about Adam and Eve’s past other than that they’ve been together for a very, very, very long time. That’s really all you need to know about the two. So many modern vampire stories get bogged down by a ton of back-story, not to mention tedious love triangles and end of the world plots. At its bare bones, “Only Lovers Left Alive” is simply about a genuine relationship between two people who just happen to vampires.
The film features fun supporting performances from Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s carefree sister, Anton Yelchin as Adam’s one human friend, Jeffrey Wright as a doctor who provides them blood, and John Hurt as their vampire mentor. But “Only Lovers Left Alive” primarily belongs to Hiddleston and Swinton, who have one of the most strangely compelling relationships this side of Gomez and Morticia Adams. They actually share a believable romance, partaking in meaningful conversations about life, sacrifice, and art. It’s more along the lines of a stage play or “Before Midnight” than “The Vampire Diaries.”
Younger audiences that just want to see the same uninspired vampire romance recycled over and over again will probably have a hard time getting into the film. Those who are fed up with the typical vampire formula, though, will appreciate the original voice and approach offered here. There just might be life left in this vampire fad, yet. Let’s just hope future vampire projects are more like “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “Buffy.”
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.