Akron-born director-writer Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Stranger Than Paradise) isn't the first guy you would think would make a vampire movie. And yet his latest art house effort, Only Lovers Left Alive, which opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre, centers on Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), two vampires struggling to live in a world where human blood is so tainted, they need to hit up hospital labs to find something pure enough to drink.
The film serves as a metaphor for the modern world. The vampires' quest for clean blood to drink mirrors our own quest for unpolluted drinking water in a world where our natural resources are constantly being drained. Adam, in particular, struggles to cope with what the "zombies" (a term he uses to describe humans) have done to planet Earth. It doesn't help matters that he lives in an abandoned house in the most desolate part of Detroit where his only friend is a long-haired rocker (Anton Yelchin) who keeps him supplied with vintage guitars and amps in exchange for cash.
When Adam enters a particularly deep depression, he asks Eve to travel from her Tangier home to see him and help keep him from putting a wooden bullet through his heart. The two make for a particularly hip couple. Adam spends most of his time working on his droning, psychedelic rock music (and he's old enough that he has stories about hanging out with literary figures like Lord Byron and Mary Wollstonecraft) and drives around town in a retro sports car that runs on technology pioneered by Nikola Tesla. Eve is a highly articulate speed-reader who's read all of classic literature.
When Eve's trouble-making sister Eva (Mia Wasikowska) unexpectedly arrives, the group of vampires even ventures out to some dingy club to hear a loud punk rock band play. And they love it. But that's about as exciting as it gets in this slow-moving film that doesn't have much of a plot. Rather, the movie plays like an extended music video. While it features some great music and is beautifully filmed (as is always the case with Jarmusch's films), it ultimately fails to be truly engaging and comes to a rather abrupt, dissatisfying end.