Languid, elegiac, mournful and unexpectedly funny, Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive introduces us to the ancient Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a pair of vampires who’ve been married so long they think nothing of living on opposite sides of the world. He lurks in Detroit, a reclusive, black-clad musician whose work quietly slips into the world via his human friend Ian (Anton Yelchin, shaggy and game). She’s in Tangier, where her cream-colored clothes and hair give her a false, sunny glow when she goes out at night, seeking her friend Kit (as in Marlowe, played by John Hurt).
Adam’s thickening gloom spurs Eve to join him in Detroit, where they spend evenings driving empty streets, remembering a world long gone, listening to music and occasionally gossiping about Shelley or Byron or Shubert. Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), shows up for a time to wreak a touch of giddy havoc in her lust for blood, which gives the vampires a brief high (eating people, Eve says, is so 15th century). But even as Ava wrecks their semi-domestic bliss, Eve adapts, making drastic change just another moment in a cycle of parting and reuniting, adapting to a world run by “zombies” who don’t know how to take care of, or appreciate, anything.
Until Ava appears, Only Lovers is mostly a chill evening with two unearthly, beautiful creatures who inhabit a world of low light and empty factories, cluttered living rooms and endlessly spinning LPs. Adam and Eve represent the romantic image of the loner artists taken to the next level, unable to be part of society even if they wanted to. Only Lovers both revels in that notion and underscores its isolation, the way living alongside the world, choosing to disdain its changes, particularly wears on Adam. But for all that they’ve seen, Eve still finds new things intriguing, like Jack White’s childhood home or the appearance of out-of-season mushrooms; Adam’s fixation on the past, and the failings of humanity, is what sends him into dark moods. Only Lovers is a little bit silly, but in the way a long night out can flip between serious and giddy from one cup of coffee (or blood) to the next. From the dark vision of Detroit to the eerie soundtrack, Hiddleston’s mop of dead-poet hair to Swinton’s wide-eyed joy, the movie creates a world all its own. If Jarmush’s atmospheric, blood-and-bohemians style is your thing, you might not want to leave.