The vampire film comes in so many different forms that sometimes you have to look a little deeper to get to the heart of it all. “Byzantium” on the surface is just another vampire movie but it actually has quite a bit more to offer making an effort to delve into the mythology of it all and tell a story about a mother and a daughter.
Two mysterious women on the run from a mysterious past are forced to leave their current location and seek refuge in a run-down coastal resort. The sexy Clara (Gemma Arterton) is a born survivor and is a master at befriending people and meets lonely Noel (Daniel Mays) who provides shelter in his deserted guesthouse. Schoolgirl Eleanor (Saorise Ronan) befriends the sickly young Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) and desperate for someone else to connect to she tells him their lethal secret. Despite the fact that they are posing as sisters, they are actually mother and daughter who were born 200 years ago and walk the earth as vampires surviving on human blood. As knowledge of their secret spreads, their past catches up on them with deathly consequences that show how wanting to live forever may not be as desirable as anyone would think.
Easily the most literary entry into the vampire genre in quite some time as “Byzantium” plays well for those liking a little bit of blood and gore and those looking for a fairly interesting spin on the standard mythology. Based on the play by Moira Buffini who also adapted it for the screen, “Byzantium” flows across the screen fairly effortlessly with a strong narrative that didn’t go around in any convoluted directions telling the story it wanted to tell with some very strong direction as Neil Jordan shooting on the Irish and English countryside’s makes it look amazing and boarding on other worldly has he takes enormous care in crafting some incredibly beautiful tableaus for these very well fleshed out characters to work within.
Gemma Arterton while obviously physically stunning has been tackling some pretty interest roles as of late and as the street smart Clara it is just a hell of a lot of fun to watch her prowl the streets in search of prey. The visual parallels of her being hunted by not only men who view her as a victim but by anyone else who would wish to do her harm is fascinating to watch making for a very compelling “The hunted becomes the hunter” kind of vibe and she plays it to the absolute hilt, being menacing and compassionate all in the same turn. Saorise Ronan, plays Eleanor like an old soul who has never gotten to develop needs to break free of this life on the run with her mother and look for some new companionship of her own. The likes of Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Mays, Jonny Lee Miller and Sam Riley all make appearances but it is the electric dynamic between Ronan and Arterton that make what could have been a run of the mill vampire story with an art house feel genuinely shine, because we focus on their never ending relationship rather then what they have for dinner every night.
Picture and sound on the Blu-Ray release are just top shelf and special features include interviews with the entire cast and crew.
Ultimately, “Byzantium” works quite well as a gothic flavored character fueled drama that will still delight vampire and genre aficionados as its focus on story doesn’t mean that there aren’t some well placed servings of blood and gore in the appropriate amounts.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Byzantium” is now available to rent on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from all major providers. You can also find it available for purchase from all major retailers like HMV, iTunes and amazon.ca.
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