Byzantium brings Vampires to the screen in a more creative way than we’ve seen in the last few years. Movie goers who have become tired of sparkly vampire ghouls and appearances in Scary Movie comedies will find Byzantium a fresh if still dark and gory journey. Originally released last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie has had a very staged release with a variety of critical response.
The setting initially is set with a mother and daughter walking through modern day seemingly on the run avoiding the authorities. Gemma Arterton plays mother Clara with a dark past causing her to become an immortal. As the story unfolds we begin to understand that her daughter Eleanor played by Saoirse Ronan has inherited the trait resulting in a life that has seen them running from the life that initiated their curse. The need to protect her daughter will cause Clara to take violent aggression against any protagonists so be aware that this isn’t for the squeamish.
As Clara and Eleanor try to find peace in a coastal town they cause ripples in the community as their assimilation hits a road bump. Clara tries to raise money in the way her lady of the night experience has worked before. Taking over the Byzantium Hotel and providing prostitute services attracts the wrong kind of attention for the two amongst an eclectic set of characters.
While Eleanor tries her way at normality through the school system its her engagement with local boy, Frank, played by Caleb Landry Jones which starts to cause a misfire in her thinking. Jones who we know as Banshee from X-men First Class does a superb job of assuming the accent needed to take away his Texan drawl.
When the movie breaks from present tense to explain the past it can take a little concentration not normally reserved for Vampire flicks to keep up. In the past sequences we find the gentleman and the bully played by Elementary’s Johnny Lee Jones and Sam Riley. These two characters help define the path we find our ladies on. The movie is based on Moira Buffini’s teleplay and directed by Neil Jordan who has been heavily involved in the TV Series, the Borgias as well as previously giving us the movies, Michael Collins and the Cruise Pitt Vampire movie, Interview with the Vampire.
The movie sets a very slow pace but doesn’t drag as Jordan develops a set with colour which feels warm and moody. Its an unusual piece of film-making as you feel that you’re been taken on a relaxed stroll that doesn’t need to be rushed. Byzantium could have been great but came away average. Thankfully it was still different from what we’ve been feeding on for the last few years. I’m giving it 3 out of 5.
Rating: R16 Horror, violence, sex scenes and offensive language.