Two lovers living their story over and over again for all eternity, but this round we get to watch.
Adam lives in Detroit; Eve lives in Tangiers. In spite of their marriage, they keep to themselves. Eve is always looking for that new discovery and is content to consume ideas; Adam seeks to create but craves reflection, periodically losing faith in “the zombies” that populate the rest of the planet for failing to echo his contributions to art. In his time of need, Eve risks the debilitating effects of travel to be with her Adam is his time of depression, an event that seems to happen every few decades or so. With clean blood in shorter supply in the world, they must remain vigilant to survive – wait, you did know they were vampires, right?
Set slightly in the future, this is primarily a character piece but has surprisingly little plot. What makes this work as a stand-alone film is that it feels familiar, a story is repeated every few decades. It doesn’t matter which one you’re seeing because they are all likely resolved the same way, but it’s an interesting take to see two dead people who live forever in danger due to the rest of the world dying. Adam seems connected to the physical world and relates to music and science, while Eve is in tune with the metaphysical, experiencing the art of words and able to sense the way of things by touch or precognition. You could build an entire series off of these characters interacting with others, but this is their story, and “the zombies” are incidental in their world.
It’s hard to imagine a pair of actors more perfect for these parts than Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Swinton is fair and wears white while Hiddleston is black-haired and dressed dark, perfect opposites drawn together. Anton Yelchin is quickly becoming a favorite chameleon actor, seamless going from vampire slayer in Fright Night to vampire groupie here – you know, when he’s not Checkov in the new Star Trek movies. Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt round out the small cast, adding the societal leech and the great mentor to the list of vampires, but it’s really all about Adam and Eve.
Even though we see them as immortals, these characters are relatable. Mostly free from the constraints of human society, they exist as eternal retirees, creating and loving and feeding as needed. They ask the questions we all ask when we stop worrying about death, money, or the world in general since they have no part in it – and yet it influences them even as they try to influence it. It’s easy to argue the semantics of the vampirism – infected blood shouldn’t affect mystical beings, but it might not do them any good – but as monsters formerly part of humanity critiquing it from the outside, Only Lovers Left Alive as a character study is a fascinating piece of cinema.
(a four skull recommendation out of four)