“Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013): Like A Record Baby, Right Round Round Round (Review)

In the opening of Only Lovers Left Alive  we first see the needle as it hits the record and the image of it spinning. We then cut to Adam (Tom Hiddleston) who is on a couch with his guitar and his image is spinning. Next we see Eve (Tilda Swinton) laying on her bed and her image is spinning too. This visual motif represents the daily ritual for both of these characters. The majority of their days are spent on a non-stop circle, and why shouldn’t it be? Both of them have been alive since the 18th century maybe even earlier.

For Adam and Eve, being vampires no longer has that sense of excitement that it did when they were younger. I’m sure 75 or 100 years ago, they were both really exciting and enjoyed tasting everything that life had to offer. Not just the life of the humans (which they call zombies) they have drunk. Today they each go through their daily routines of getting their supply and just like the record it continues to spin. It may stop every so often but the needle just like the blood these two crave keeps their lives spinning and spinning in a never ending circle.

When our story first opens Adam and Eve are living away from each other. They are not broken up, they are just not living if you together. I know it may sound romantic to live with the same person for ever, but after 100 years a little break does make sense. Besides they do speak via online chat so it’s not like they don’t communicate. Eve comes out to visit Adam in Detroit where he lives and they go out at night, not to feed but mainly to talk.  Their conversations are ones they have told to each other before, but it doesn’t matter because of the love they both share. Think of the stories and conversations you shared with the person you love. Do those stories have less impact as the years go by. Maybe so, but after a while those same stories can hold a lot of value, especially if you happen to live over 500 years.

When Eve’s younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) comes to visit it upsets their whole routine and circular balance. Just like a lot of other youngsters out there. Ava’s hunger is intense, she craves blood and doesn’t know the meaning of savoring anything. Adam and Eve both nurse their glasses of blood. But Ava just downs it like a shot of Jag. She shows no signs of slowing down and this is the only real big conflict in this whole story.

Mia vamoire

Only Lovers Left Alive is the only vampire movie I can think of next to Let the Right One In that shows the vampire lifestyle as less than glamorous. In that Swedish tale, it was portrayed as more of a disease, while in this Jim Jarmusch story it’s more about how boring that life could be. If you’re a vampire you get to look young and live forever, but how long will it be before the joy ends and you become bored and disdained with that aspect of life? There are several moments in this that drive home the point that life for these people can be quite dull. Watching Adam compose songs and Eve read books is not exciting for the viewer, but are interesting to them. The movie unfolds its plot at a very slow pace.

This makes sense because if you could never die everything would start to slow down. There would be no rush to get through life’s goals because there is no life. I found some reflections between these characters and how we view ourselves. Think of your life now versus just five years ago. Are you the same person? Have you made any changes? Maybe you have or maybe you haven’t. I’m sure even though the change is small it’s still a part of you. It could be as simple as getting a new job or moving to a new town. There are many moments in life where we make changes to ourselves. Now imagine if you could never die and could see all sorts of changes not just in you but in the culture as well. Would you still be the same person you were before and have the same sort of love for things you did?  Maybe so,but it’s one thing to predict how you will be between the ages of six and 36.  It’s another thing entirely when it’s between the ages of 95 and 900 years old.

The chemistry between Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton is very good. They act like a couple who have been around for ages and they don’t have to say much to convey to the audience that they have been in love for years. The supporting cast including John Hurt, Jeffery Wright and Anton Yelchin is also very good. But it’s Mia Wasikowska who helps give the movie a much needed boost of energy. Her character of Ava is that whirlwind of energy that shakes up Adam and Eve’s lives and I’m glad that she does.


If you are expecting an all out horror film out of Only Lovers Left Alive you’ll be disappointed. There are only a few killings and we never see the action take place. Still this is a very interesting movie that gives the mythology of vampires a whole new spin. Unlike a lot of other movies it makes them a lot more believable.

The Good: The cinematography and the chemistry between Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston (Who I’m now combining into  #TomdaSwindleton).
The Bad: Some scenes overstay their welcome.
The Ugly: When a certain character is disposed of in acid .

Overall: 8.0/10

Written By The Vern

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.

If you like us, let the world know…Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterGoogle+0Share on Reddit0share on Tumblr0Pin on Pinterest0Share on LinkedIn0Email to someone
  • rich

    so “it’s a show – about nothing”? (borrowing from seinfeld)

    but seriously, there’s not really a plot going on? just observing their daily boring lives? i’ll pass.

    have you seen “julia”?

  • I think the fact that they have to live these lives over and over again is the main tension. If it was about people other then Vampires it would be pointlesss but here there is a meaning to it. One review I read compared this to Amour and I hated that flick but liked this one. Havent seen Julia. Is it about Seinfeld star Julia Louise Dreyfuss? Thanks for the comment Rich

  • Sverrir Sigfússon

    It’s a mood piece first and foremost, and an excellent film filled with fascinating characters.

  • rich

    “julia” is a great tilda swinton film about a woman whose life is falling apart in several ways. then she sees an opportunity to make some easy money, and everything falling apart just explodes to pieces. one of those movies where one step up becomes two steps back, where “just when you think things can’t get worse – they get worse.” i never saw it until last year’s ebertfest. excellent film about a train-wreck of a woman.


  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Great review, Vern. Really looking forward to this one. HUGE fan of Hiddleston.

  • Rich. This looks AwesomeSauce. I have only seen Swinton in a few films and I need to check this one out soon. Thanks for the reccomendation

  • Thank you Sverrir. The character that Anton Yelchin played was sort of the audience in being introduced to this world. If vampires were to exist today. I believe they would act more like this

  • Aww Thank you Fernando. He is really good. I hope he gets more rolls.

  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Me too. I’ve loved him in every movie I’ve seen him in so far. And he’s just getting started!

  • rich

    happy to recommend. 4 stars from roger ebert. i haven’t always agreed with him, but i do on this one.

  • I really liked Only Lovers Left Alive. It probably could have lost about 15 minutes but I didn’t mind the slow pace. Loved the cinematography, loved the music, loved the sense of environment…I could really lose myself in that film. Great review.

  • Thank you for the comment Lackey. I agree it is easy to become lost in it

  • moviesandsongs365

    Glad you
    liked it Vern. i agree it was interesting, but I think the director could have done
    more with the wonderful ideas at his disposal, maybe a bit more story or voice-over? The slow pacing and dullness hurt my
    enjoyment. Nice soundtrack, and the look of the film was impressive. Kudos for trying to be a different kind of vampire movie.

  • Lovely review! Only Lovers Left Alive is far from a masterpiece and can often feel quite dull at times. However, it is an interesting film that brings up some relevant philosophical issues about life and the kind of world we live in.

  • The Vern

    Thank you for those nice words. sorry I havent responded back in a while

  • The Vern

    I will agree with you MAS that soundtrack was cool. I had no idea it was from the Director himself