Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Moira Buffini
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Mays, Uri Gavriel, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tom Hollander
Seen on: 1.1.2017
Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Clara (Gemma Arterton) had to leave their old town in a hurry and have ended up in a small coastal town where they try for a new start. Being centuries old vampires, this is not the first time they had to do this. Eleanor is struggling with what she is, while Clara is pragmatic enough to always fall on her feet. She quickly finds Noel (Daniel Mays), who owns a run-down hotel, and with him shelter and work. Meanwhile Clare meets Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a student with leukemia, and feels immediately drawn to him. But they aren’t save yet.
Byzantium has a great set-up and a great cast and it could have been utterly brilliant, but it did neither justice. To call it disappointing almost isn’t strong enough.
Maybe the film shouldn’t have been directed by a man who seemed more preoccupied with Arterton’s sexiness (which is substantial, I’ll be the first to admit) and the sex work Clara does in the film than the feminist over- and undertones to the story that keep falling through the cracks. It isn’t until the very end that that part of the story is allowed to have a moment to shine.
And it’s especially disappointing because there would have been so much of it in the story (I assume that Buffini intended it as a feminist story). And anyway, it’s so rare to get stories that actually center female vampires. And Byzantium really does make a point of it: vampiric society has always been limited to noble men – until Clara came along and gave them the finger.
If you disregard what the film could have been, Byzantium does have its moments here and there. And it really does have great cast. Since I’m moderately obsessed with Gemma Arterton, she could pretty much do anything at all, and I would look at her with hearts in my eyes and wouldn’t be bored for a second which can only help the film. But Saoirse Ronan delivers a strong performance as well, and there are quite a few people I appreciate in the smaller roles as well.
I could have done without much of the voice-over, but then I just don’t like voice-overs a whole lot. At least I have definitely heard worse. It was just the final nail in my excitement-coffin. Nevertheless, I can see myself revisiting Byzantium. For its potential. And for Gemma Arterton as a vampire.
Summarizing: Should have been better than it was, but it wasn’t all bad.