Tilda Swinton was born to play a vampire. As “Only Lovers Left Alive” shows, it’s in her blood.
Oh, sure, Swinton was born to play other things as well — alien, ice queen, sweaty corporate manipulator. But the languorous beyond-cool vibe she brings to playing a vampire kicking back in Tangier and Detroit is something special. Of course, kicking back vampire-style is about all the energy writer-director Jim Jarmusch can muster for this shaded story of love over the centuries. Far into the movie, he introduces Mia Wasikowska as Swinton’s spoiled, disruptive vampire sister, and he gets a lot of laughs out of Anton Yelchin as a human enabler, but mostly he’s concerned with the lazy lovers in the title. Those would be Swinton as Eve and Tom Hiddleston, leaving his role as Loki in “The Avengers” far behind, as Adam. As the film opens, Eve is lounging around Tangier, surrounded by books and scoring blood from her friend, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who it turns out did write the works of Shakespeare.
Adam, though, is living in an abandoned brick house in Detroit, making haunting electric music and collecting guitars. Eve calls one night and can see something troubling in her lover’s eyes, so she books a flight to the D.
Adam and Eve have reached a level of civility — they no longer attack people; Adam buys blood from a hospital lab technician (Jeffrey Wright). So the film slowly evolves into part spot-on Detroit travelogue, part pop culture satire and part fish eternally out-of-water anxiety exercise. Somehow it’s all very entertaining and weird and fitting, with Detroit looking like a place any vampire would be happy to be.