Only Lovers Left Alive Is A Different Kind of Vampire Movie

I recently got my hands on a copy of Only Lovers Left Alive, a 2013 vampire movie starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Despite both me and my mom being super hyped about it prior to its release, we both failed miserably at getting ourselves to a theater in our area where it was actually playing. I’d nearly forgotten my desire to see the movie at all when lo and behold, someone who’d purchased the movie at a different location brought it into the store where I work to return it. Sensing the hand of divine providence, I snatched it up, and as soon as we had a chance to sit down with it (and a glass of wine or two) we popped it into the DVD player.

olla title cardHow to describe what happened after that? Suffice it to say, Only Lovers Left Alive is not like any other movie I’ve seen.

Spoilers after the jump.

Ony Lovers Left Alive is the story of Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), centuries-old married vampires who have grown reclusive and melancholy in their old age. Because of the dramatic increase in drugs and toxins of all sorts in the last few centuries, they rarely drink the blood of random humans anymore, instead purchasing blood they know is uncontaminated from a shady doctor at a blood bank. They’re still as beautiful and talented as ever, though, and while they spend most of their time on different continents, Eve with her books in Tangier and Adam with his music in Detroit, they still love each other deeply. When Eve realizes that Adam is becoming depressed on his own, she flies out to reunite with him.

onlylovers4Adam has been recording indie rock music under a pseudonym, and his one contact to the outside world is a twenty-something named Ian (played by a tragically Russian-accentless Anton Yelchin), who distributes Adam’s music and obtains rare and valuable instruments for Adam’s collection. When Eve shows up she manages to pull Adam out of his funk and away from his vague suicidal ideations. They chill together, hanging out and cruising around nighttime Detroit, for a brief peaceful interval, until Eve’s younger sister Ava (played by Mia Wasikowska) appears. Ava is a mercurial and selfish vampire who refuses to live by the rules to which Adam and Eve hold themselves. After an increasingly tense and awkward night, Ava drains and kills Ian. Horrified and furious, Adam kicks her out, and after hurriedly disposing of his body, Adam and Eve hightail it back to Tangier. There, they settle in and try to figure out how to continue living in a world that’s increasingly hostile to their way of life.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Relationship goals.

I thought Adam and Eve’s relationship was both beautiful and fascinating. It was actually believable that they could have been in love for centuries; although they were clearly happy with each other and knew the other very well, they also were comfortable enough in their own person to spend time apart without losing the thread of their relationship. Even though they’ve been living apart for quite some time before the movie begins, Eve is still able to immediately tell that something’s wrong with Adam after talking to him. Once they meet back up again, they’re obviously deeply content to just be with the other person, regardless of what they’re doing together.

The film also had some cool spins on the vampire mythology. I thought the idea that environmental toxins might drive the once-top-of-the-food-chain vampires to depend on, essentially, a drug dealer to procure their sustenance was an interesting subversion, as well as a very subtly poignant environmental message. Even the drinking of blood was interestingly portrayed: they only partook of tiny amounts at a time, and each hit of the blood produced an orgasmic high-like state of altered consciousness. I also appreciated the nod to historical controversy that was their friend and fellow vampire Christopher Marlowe—yes, the Elizabethan-era playwright, played here by John Hurt—who confesses on his deathbed that he did in fact write most of Shakespeare’s plays for him.

The most interesting thing about the movie, though, is how character-driven it is. Despite what many moviegoers have come to expect from an adult-audience-centered vampire movie, there isn’t a shred of action or violence shown on screen the entire time, and in fact, there are many scenes that lack any urgency whatsoever. That may seem like it would make for a boring movie, but it actually made for a very mellow and reflective experience.

In the end, I’m actually glad I didn’t see this in theaters. My darkened living room with a glass of wine and good company was the perfect place to take in this contemplative and fascinating movie, and should you decide to check it out as well (which you totally should), I suggest doing so with an open mind and possibly a glass of something red.

I meant wine, you weirdos.

I meant wine, you weirdos.

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1 thought on “Only Lovers Left Alive Is A Different Kind of Vampire Movie

  1. It was a fabulous movie, and I enjoyed watching it with you. I also enjoyed the different take on vampire mythology that was presented. HIddleston and Swinton were perfect for the roles, and I’m not gonna lie, having Tom be shirtless for much of the film was an added perk.

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