Film Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive is a visual treat. The film is light on driving narrative, but engrossing nevertheless.

Reclusive musician Adam is a vampire flirting with the idea of suicide. When his wife senses his melancholia, she travels to Detroit to see him.  The couple’s reunion is interrupted by an unexpected visitor…

Only Lovers Left Alive concentrates more on atmospherics than it does on plot. Those who are familiar with the work of writer-director Jim Jarmusch will not be surprised by this.

Concentrating on two protagonists, Only Lovers Left Alive offers viewers a glimpse into the lives of two centuries-old vampires. The film depicts the vampires in a fashion not frequently seen on screen. The layer of mystery is unveiled; in a number of ways Only Lovers Left Alive depicts its undead as normal rather than overtly supernatural or extreme.

The film features a number of references to history and mythology. The deadpan way in which the characters discuss these topics do generate laughs. In the brooding atmosphere there is still plenty of humour.

Only Lovers Left Alive has highly stylised visuals. The art direction makes the most of dark colours. Adam in particular lives in a particularly gothic environment. There is a sense of gloom that permeates the film. This is mirrored in the settings and the colours. Costumes and styling are also distinctive.

Tom Hiddleston is excellent as Adam; he fully embodies the part of the melancholic rock star vampire. Tilda Swinton is also great; both deliver their lines with the right temperament to make them humorous.

Some viewers will feel unsatisfied by the lack of plot in Only Lovers Left Alive. For others, the brooding countenance and amusing exchanges will be enough.

Only Lovers Left Alive is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.


  • One knows that a Jim Jarmusch movie about vampires is not going to be like any other vampire film. In fact it would be unkind to class this as a vampire movie. Only Lovers Left Alive is a highly stylized and atmospheric film bemoaning the passing of the great rock n roll and Hippy era. Here we have a vampire couple (Swinton & Hiddleston – both excellent and perfectly cast) living an isolated life in an abandoned house in Detroit, USA. Hiddleston used to be a famous rock n roll artist who has become a recluse collecting old guitars and records. They survive by purchasing blood samples from a corrupt doctor. We also have one of their old vampire friends (John Hurt) living in Tangiers where the blood is specially pure. Things take an unexpected turn when Swinton’s mischievous sister (Mia Wasikowska) visits them. Only Lovers Left Alive has cult film written all over it. The music is great too and blends perfectly with the atmosphere. Essential for Jarmusch fans and recommended to others too!

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