Share This Page

'Only Lovers' helps sophistication return to vampirism

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
SODA Pictures
Tilda Swinton (left) and Tom Hiddleston in 'Only Lovers Left Alive'
Columbia Pictures - Sony Picture
Jamie Foxx (left) and Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2.'

For those who puzzled over the “Twilight” hoopla, here are Adam and Eve, the artiest, most sophisticated pair of vampires to hit screens in a long time.

“Only Lovers Left Alive” offers two of the screen's most believable undead, in the pale forms of Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. These centuries-old lovers have no sign of sparkling skin, nor do they move with lightning-fast speed. Swinton and Hiddleston play bohemian, worldly vampires in an offbeat, languorous and engrossing tale.

For the literati, there's Christopher Marlowe, also a succubus, played drolly by John Hurt.

Director Jim Jarmusch found corners of Detroit that look charmingly dilapidated and even idyllic under starlight — a perfect urban home for a reclusive vamp.

That Motown resident is Adam (Hiddleston), an underground musician who holes up in a ramshackle Gothic house cluttered with artifacts. The good-natured Ian (Anton Yelchin), the only human Adam likes, fetches him rare vintage guitars. Adam ventures out only for hospital runs where he buys bags of pure O-negative from a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) who asks no questions.

These nightly errands keep Adam from having to attack humans for his survival. Apparently, biting people's necks is out of fashion, deemed irresponsible and unnecessary.

Living across the globe is Adam's literature-loving inamorata Eve (Swinton). Draped in flowing scarves, she haunts the shadowy streets of Tangiers under cover of nightfall, paying regular visits to Marlowe. Her blood comes from Marlowe's black-market supplier.

As much as they need their fluids, the pair long for each other and conduct Skype sessions to stay connected. Eve is a 21st-century techno-philiac, her iPhone always close at hand, while Adam has no interest in modern technology.

When Eve senses that Adam's poetic melancholia may be getting the better of him, she boards a night flight to Detroit.

Reunited, their time together is rapturous and wonderfully cozy. But the sudden appearance of Eve's reckless sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) upsets their lives. Soon, the couple is forced to flee to Tangiers to maintain their shadowy existence.

They grow visibly weak from lack of the vital blood — will they resort to attacking humans?

The cast is terrific. Hiddleston, with his brooding intensity and long dark hair, makes a wonderful boho bloodsucker. Swinton brings a warmth and knowing intelligence to the role. Yelchin is endearing as the eager-to-please Ian, and Wasikowska nails the part of a bratty thrill-seeker.

Hiddleston and Swinton have fabulous chemistry in a hypnotic saga that offers a metaphor for the fragility of humanity.

Claudia Puig writes for USA Today.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.