There’s a lot to love about this swoony, drifty vampire flick, a sensual opium dream which unfurls in a lushly-colored musical haze. Tilda Swinton was born to play a vampire, with her giant sepulcher-face full of bones. She’s magnetic, as are the cityscapes, a bleached-white Tangiers and half-abandoned Detroit.
The blood=drug equation isn’t subtle, but there’s a subtler, haunting motif of music and nostalgia as ecstatic drugs in which we lose ourselves. The vampires are drunk on their own pasts: They knew Lord Byron! They knew Detroit when it meant power and pride. I often find that music opens a door in the mind, a door which leads back to the unresolved, regretted or longed-for past. This use of music as time-machine can become a way of fleeing from the present-day self, its loves and responsibilities; this is a theme which Only Lovers hits hard, in its depiction of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton, I’m as sorry about these names as you are) as vampire lovers who profess devotion but spend most of their time on separate continents.
I didn’t find these vampires likable or particularly entrancing, unlike their richly-textured settings. They’re connoisseurs. They can tell the make and date of a guitar by stroking it; Adam, with his elitist resentment, is a half-step away from posting YouTube comments-box rants about sheeple. There’s a satirical edge here: the vampire as hipster, as Miniver Cheevy with a LP collection. But the movie isn’t contemptuous of its subjects.