Only Lovers Left Alive review

Undead and loving it

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When Jim Jarmusch last made a film, 2009’s The Limits Of Control , his hipster cool looked at risk of freezing in its self-awareness. But though the indie vet’s new one brims with outsider chic, it’s a deliciously warm, witty spin on vampires and a rhapsodic love letter to art, music, dancing, love, dressing gowns... All that makes life worth living, even when you’re undead.

Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton nail it as centuries-old lovers Adam (sulky) and Eve (nurturing). They spend half the film slumped over bohemian furnishings, low with ennui or high on O-negative. But they slump playfully and beautifully, melting their sometimes icy fronts with twinkles of warmth.

Cameos from a hot-blooded Mia Wasikowska as Eve’s vampire-brat sister Ava and Anton Yelchin as hanger-on Ian aside, the plot doesn’t involve much more than Eve leaving her Tangiers home to visit Adam in Detroit. Yet drive is less crucial than detail to Jarmusch’s design. Adam’s love of music gives Jarmusch an excuse to relish retro obsessions (the crackle of vinyl, first-edition books).

Self-indulgent? To a point. But Jarmusch makes seductive work of it: the deep, dusty images, the hypnotic pacing. The in-jokes are cheeky rather than lofty, as is Jarmusch’s feather-light slant on genre staples. Blood is sustenance rather than sport to Adam and Eve, who don’t kill but obtain the red stuff via humane means.

Culture’s what keeps them going: even in trouble, they find time to admire the curves of a lute or a Lebanese singer’s aching song, clinging to what makes life bearable. Since that includes each other, OLLA is juiced with genuine feeling.

Verdict: A loving, very funny valentine to undead pleasures, with Swinton and Hiddleston on top form.

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Freelance writer

Kevin Harley is a freelance journalist with bylines at Total Film, Radio Times, The List, and others, specializing in film and music coverage. He can most commonly be found writing movie reviews and previews at GamesRadar+.