It's a while since I've seen a vampire thriller as good as Byzantium, the new movie from Neil Jordan. In fact it's been almost 20 years since Jordan has made a film this good. A glorious, gothic drama featuring standout performances from Gemma Arteron and Saorsie Ronan, who steals the film as a wide eyed, eternal 16 year old.
Both are vampires, the latter is sworn to secrecy, but with a life story several generations old, it's little wonder she has a hard time containing it, so she writes it down in glorious longhand,and throws it to the wind, where the crumpled pages are collected by a neighbouring pensioner. Before long he meets his doom, but as he welcomes death he adheres to her moral code. She only feeds from the frail and dying.
After leaving one temporary home they arrive at another, an off season seaside resort. Arterton befriends a grieving hotelier (Daniel Mays) and manages to inveigle them into his home.
However, the mother and daughter are being tracked, which leads to a violent showdown.
The script is absorbing, the performances are well played, and Neil Jordan uses familiar touches that make us feel like we are watching his greatest hits; a scene in a lift is reminiscent of his critically acclaimed 1986 drama Mona Lisa.
Though i only managed to survive bits of the Twilight saga, for me Byzantium is everything that series wasn't. Well acted, beautifully scripted and cleverly directed.
With Hollywood only interested in setting up franchises these days, there is none of that convoluted 'will there be a sequel?' nonsense. Just a truth to the material that leaves you feeling more satisfied than many films in 2013.
Sam Riley, sounding and looking more like a young John Hurt than ever, offers good support, along with the ever excellent Daniel Mays.