Byzantium (2012) - Neil Jordan
Clara and Eleanor never spend too much time in one place. They've just arrived in a run-down coastal resort town, seeking refuge. Clara meets a lonely man, Noel, who provides the two woman with shelter at his deceased grandmother's deserted guesthouse, Byzantium. Younger than Clara, Eleanor attends classes at the local school where she meets Frank. Their new life seems to be working out well for them until Elanor tells Frank their secret: They are not humans, but vampires, who have been living on this earth for over 200 years. Neil Jordan's Byzantium is a unique take on the vampire mythos that sees Jordan return to her more artistic storytelling routes. The film's narrative unfolds naturally over almost the entire duration of the movie, giving insights into Clara and Elanor's past. The core of this narrative revolves around the mother-daughter character dynamic, with Clara being much more cold and unforgiving about her violent ways of survival. Jordan does not shy away from capturing the brutal violence capable of these two woman but what's interesting is how the film juxtaposes it against beautiful imagery, capturing the character's point-of-view through this romanticism. The film's narrative flows between past and present in such a fluid way that the viewer themselves begins to get lost in the blur of time. This is particularly impressive because it is intentional, capturing how for someone with eternal life time itself would feel inconsequential. As I mentioned earlier, Byzantium is beautifully composed, with lush visuals that seem to brighten up the red hues of the film. My only real complaint about the film is that I did think the mother-daughter character dynamics could have used more refinement. It's clear that Clara has had an incredibly tough life and loves her daughter very much but I could used a little more subtlety and development in that department. The ending also feels a little rushed, particularly revolving around Sam Riley's decision at the end but it didn't bother me enough to take me out of the film. Neil Jordan's Byzantium is a welcome return for Jordan which features strong lead performances, lush visuals, and a unique and fascinating spin on the vampire mythos.
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