Clara (Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Ronan) have been vampires for a very long time. Looking for a fresh start, they wind up in a sleepy seaside town on the English coast, where Clara turns a run-down guest house into a makeshift bordello. When Eleanor reveals the truth about herself to a local boy (Jones), however, word spreads and their past threatens to catch up with them…
More than just another vampire movie, Byzantium marks the return of filmmaker Neil Jordan to the genre (sub-genre?) nearly twenty years after Interview With The Vampire. Importantly, though, despite a few thematic similarities (the curse of immortality, a vampire’s need for confession), this blood-soaked odyssey offers a far less traditional take on vampirism. Providing a welcome antidote to the emo-flavoured romance of Twilight, Jordan creates a credible world that’s only slightly removed from our own. Admittedly, the film isn’t without operatic moments (see Clara taking a sexy shower in a waterfall of crimson-red blood), but on the whole these bloodsuckers are as ‘realistic’ as you’re likely to see on screen. Using retractable talons instead of fangs, they ‘merely’ drink blood and live forever, able to walk in sunlight and incapable (thankfully) of transforming into flying rodents of the night.
Seductive, stylish and quietly captivating, it all adds up to what is arguably the best vampire movie since Let The Right One In. Boasting its own mythology, Jordan’s folklore-flavoured tale depicts vampirism as an exclusive male-only privilege, proving most interesting during lengthy flashbacks to the 18th Century. Still, Byzantium is as much about a mother-daughter relationship as it is bloodsucking or feminism, offering a perfect showcase for both Saoirse Ronan and a noticeably bustier Gemma Arterton. As the 200-year-old 16-year-old, Ronan does a lot with a fairly one-note character (solemn, longing to share her story), while Arterton impresses as the saucy, bosom-wielding lady of the night. Elsewhere, Eleanor’s romance with Caleb Landry Jones exists as the film’s least involving plot thread, but there’s decent support from the likes of Tom Hollander, Jonny Lee Miller and Daniel Mays.
Seductive, stylish and quietly captivating, Byzantium is arguably the best vampire movie since Let The Right One In.