If you like literary and musical allusions, you might like "Only Lovers" despite the zombies if only because you get the jokes. If you're a Jarmusch fan, you'll like "Only Lovers" as proof that the man is unpredictable and quirky. But if you like your movies to be about regular people, not ancient night-crawlers, you might not give your full attention to "Only Lovers Left Alive."
The title lovers are -- and here's a rare biblical allusion -- Adam and Eve. They live apart for the first of the film, she in Tangiers, he in the god-forsaken land of Detroit. They remain in communication, she through modern means, he through jerry-rigged technology of the Rube Goldberg sort. Eve gets her blood via an old friend -- and by old, let's say centuries, one Christopher Marlowe, whom she calls Kit because, well, that's how close they are. The great John Hurt plays Kit. Adam, wearing a lab coat named Dr. Faust, gets his blood through the offices of an unethical Dr. Watson, played by Jeffrey Wright as a fraidy cat.
Adam spends his dark days collecting guitars -- and does he know his vintage gittars. She spends hers floating around the Far East looking like my sister's Barbie doll after my other sister flushed her nylon hair in the toilet.
They do come together in the same room when she flies to him -- a night flight, of course, her bag packed with good literature to match the icons of writers on his wall. But they start to come apart when her sister Ava moves in and wants her share of the "good stuff."
Tilda Swinton was made for the role of Eve, and Tom Hiddleston of "War Horse" and "Coriolanus," so not so well known as Swinton but as good an actor, is perfect as dour Adam. Mia Wasikowska is believable as a wayward zombie (quite the opposite of her star work as Jane Eyre), and Anton Yelchin from "Fight Night" is properly syncophantic as Adam's supplier of goods, a walking Craig of the List.
The real stars of the film are the chair of the properties committee, Marco Bittner Rosser, who outfitted Adam's place, and the cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux, who took Detroit from Motown to Less Town. There's lots to look at in "Only Lovers Left Alive," and lots to hear, not only in music but in Jarmusch's witticisms, but in the end, long, too long, after the beginning, "Only Lovers Left Alive" is still a zombie movie.