Even vampires get the blues. In Jim Jarmusch’s entrancing Only Lovers Left Alive, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play Adam and Eve, centuries-old bloodsuckers who have been in love for so long, they feel like they’re next to each other even when they’re on separate continents. Adam is a musician with a cult following who is holed up in a creepy mansion in a desolate neighborhood in Detroit. He relies on an eager young fan (Anton Yelchin) to fetch him the analog equipment he needs (Jarmusch’s camera lovingly caresses old-school vinyl LPs and reel-to-reel recorders), and he has a deal with a doctor (Jeffrey Wright) to provide him with a steady supply of his favorite nectar, type O-negative.
Eve is in Tangier, hanging out with another vampire (John Hurt) who knows how to get his fangs on the “really good stuff.” But when she senses Adam’s angst — he has gotten his hands on a bullet made out of hard wood and plans to use it on himself — she hops a flight to the U.S. to reunite with her unhappy lover.
Like most of Jarmusch’s films, Only Lovers Left Alive is a mood piece, a stylish meditation on isolation, loneliness and the intimacy between two supernatural beings who only find peace in each other’s arms. The rest of the world provides no haven or comfort, no balm for their eternal existential pain. The film’s sliver of a plot rests on Eve’s little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who is also a vampire and drops in on the couple, forcing them to go out on a nightclub crawl with disastrous consequences. But Jarmusch always keeps the pace steady and the temperature low. This is a beguilingly cold picture.
The casting of Hiddleston and Swinton was a stroke of genius: They emanate a particular sort of cool only they seem privy to, accentuating their alienation. Draped in a palette of dark blues and blacks, Only Lovers Left Alive broods and shimmers beautifully, and the actors follow suit. Everlasting life isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.