Only Lovers Left Alive

  • Only Lovers Left AliveWith well-developed characters, an identifiable score, and all-around confident direction, Only Lovers Left Alive is a welcome addition to an overdone genre.
  • Not least because it is different. Here the characters’ vampirism isn’t the focus; their humanity is.
  • And, at their core, they are human.  World weary and very, very old, but still subject to the same fits of optimism, dejectedness or opportunism that plagues most human beings.
  • Therein is why Only Lovers Left Alive resonates with thematic truth. We understand, even empathize with these characters, and so they show us parts of the human condition.
  • Director Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay is similarly strong in other areas. He paces the film well, continually building his characters through new scenes.
  • His dialogue is insightful and clever.
  • He develops secondary characters well.
  • And he never lets Only Lovers Left Alive become didactic.
  • His actors help him. Tom Hiddleston (Adam) and Tilda Swinton (Eve) are note-perfect.
  • Mia Wasikowska (Ava), John Hurt (Kit Marlowe), Jeffrey Wright (Dr. Watson) and Anton Yelchin (Ian) are almost as good.
  • Jarmusch’s camera angels are always impeccably selected. For instance, his many gods-eye images help foster the sense of mature ennui that fuels the project.
  • And Only Lovers Left Alive‘s score is very good. Its primary notes, which serve a narrative purpose, are repeated enough to produce an aura of contemplativeness, but not so often that they become repetitive.
  • All of which is to say that this feature is very good.
  • Nevermind that it lacks a punch of exceptionalism. Neither Jarmusch’s screenplay, nor his direction, nor the performances, nor the visuals, nor the audio, nor anything else stand out as being great.
  • Everything is merely very good. Which is, in its own right, praise-worthy.
  • Final Grade: B+

16 thoughts on “Only Lovers Left Alive

      • Wow, he’s been around a long time and that he’s devoted to Indy makes him an artist that won’t buy into the machine. I LOVED Sling Blade, but that’s the only one I have seen. Now I get to watch this. Not into the Vampire genre, but I’ll make an exception here.

      • He has been. And he’s really good. (Though Sling Blade is Billy Bob’s baby – he wrote, starred and directed it. Jarmusch had an acting part, but he’s not listed in the credits as being involved in the production side.)

        Which is instructional because a Jarmusch directed movie is always easily identifiable. They tend to trade in introspective ennui and a fair amount of conversation. Strictly speaking, very little happens. You are the sort of viewer whom that is unlikely to bother, but it’s worth noting before you sit down to watch one of his movies. 🙂

        I personally think both Ghost Dog (which showcases a brilliant Forrest Whitaker and includes lots of clever homages to Akira Kurosawa) and Broken Flowers (Bill Murray at his finest; and a tremendous supporting turn from Sharon Stone) better than Only Lovers Left. But this one is really good, too.

        And nothing like a typical vampire flick.

  1. AAAhhhh, thanks for the lesson, teacher ;). Too bad you don’t write posts about people, genres, and events in history related to cinema. I’d learn a lot for sure. Broken Flowers. Loved that film but didn’t realize it was Jarmusch. 🙂

    • I thought I remembered reading something about Broken Flowers in your ode to Bill Murray, but I wasn’t sure. I think Broken Flowers is generally regarded as Jarmusch’s most accessible film, because it’s the one wherein the plot materializes most quickly. But it still bears his mark.

      I don’t really know enough about the people in film – I know a fair amount about some of their bodies of work, but talking about that would simply repeat what IMDB or Wikipedia can tell you, right?

      But. Just for you, I’ll draft a non-review post, one that is more an essay. If you give me a topic …


    • Yeah. Wasikowska injects the entire movie with vital purpose and propels the lead characters forward. Without there’s nothing even resembling a story. And I think she pulls it off brilliantly.

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