‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ is the thinking person’s vampire film

Tilda Swinton stars in "Only Lovers Left Alive."
(Sandro Kopp / Sony Pictures Classics)
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

If you’ve dismissed “Only Lovers Left Alive” as merely another vampire movie, even with the Jim Jarmusch pedigree, reconsider before this exquisite contemplation of existence ceases to exist in theaters.

The auteur of darkness was bound to get around to the undead sooner or later, and a cloistered vampire world clearly suits him. Inside it, the writer-director creates an exacting portrait of humankind. A thinking person’s vampire film is the bonus.

It stars the incomparable Tilda Swinton as Eve and the immeasurable Tom Hiddleston as Adam. The lovers have been around for centuries, picking and choosing what progress to accept. Electronics are a boon since the film begins with Adam holed up in Detroit making piercing rock ballads, and Eve’s living in Tangier.

Blood comes in relatively conventional ways; hospital suppliers are safest. They don’t go out by day; at times, their eyes are a stunning gold — all the trappings of the mythology woven in.


More intriguing is the question of infinite time. At some point, do you stop loving life when it is never going to end? The film is both heavy and light as it dances around the issue. History is the great source of amusement, and Jarmusch uses it cleverly. His best decision, though, is the cast. Swinton and Hiddleston are mesmerizing as they shift through moods, sift through memories, deal with Eve’s out-of-control younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska).

Like exotic creatures, Adam and Eve spend infinity trying to find a little happiness in their gilded cage.