There’s a scene in Jim Jarmusch’s wonderfully offbeat vampire fable Only Lovers Left Alive in which Tilda Swinton’s langurous Eve interrupts her chess game with her brooding lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston) to give him a blood ice lolly.
“Very refreshing in hot weather,” she tells him.
If you’re looking for po-faced bloodsuckers or throat-ripping action, look elsewhere.
Adam and Eve have been married for centuries, splitting up from time to time and reuniting. Adam now lives in seclusion in Detroit following a brief spell as a rock star and has become depressed. Eve senses his misery and travels from Tangiers to join him, but their happiness is threatened by the arrival of Eve’s unstable sister Eva (Mia Wasikowska).
Arthouse fans will know Jarmusch as the filmmaker behind bone-dry, slightly twisted indies like Down By Law and Broken Flowers. For the unitiated, the tone of Only Lovers Left Alive might be a bit of a surprise. It’s hilarious but straight-faced, and romantic but surprisingly silly. It’s a vampire movie that is nearly plot-less.
There are all the usual Jarmusch preoccupations: music, philosophy and a level of deadpan cool that other directors can only dream of.
It’s also his best film since Ghost Dog in 1999, balancing his own idiosyncracies with a real warmth and sense of humour. Wasikowska continues to impress as the wicked Eva, Anton Yelchin is hilarious as Adam’s spaced-out roadie Ian, while John Hurt is predictably glorious as the vampire Christopher Marlowe (the true author of Shakespeare’s plays – at least he is here.)
The great big heart of the film, however, belongs to Swinton and Hiddleston. They are wonderful together as the couple who have had centuries to learn about each other and discover the mysteries of the world.
As they drive around the city chatting about everything from Detroit’s future to biology (“We don’t know shit about fungi”) to Jack White, their relationship is beautifully written and played, and every second spent in their company a joy. It’s an acquired taste, to be sure, but Only Lovers Left Alive is funny and heartfelt, and Hiddleston and Swinton are simply perfect.