If the summer’s glut of sequels and reboots has got you down, then interest, if not a feel-good time, may be found in the art house. Byzantium, a return to the vampire genre well-trod by director Neil Jordan in High Spirits and his more famous Interview with a Vampire, is a curious piece, at times slow and ponderous, bookended by violent, swift action. It brings Jordan back to a theme he explored in Vampire; the consequences, and perpetual loneliness, of the cursed immortal.
The difference here is that the subjects of Jordan’s very modern supernatural tale are not statuesque vampires in sharp suits and gleaming jewels, but a mother-daughter pair, sleeping rough and on the run. Having defied a patriarchal Brotherhood whose rules state that women cannot create succients (the film’s preferred term for its vampiric denizens), Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton) and her daughter Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) are forever one step ahead of their pursuers, though Eleanor appears largely in the dark about their impending danger, or, at least, the reason for their being on the move. This reason, the reason for Eleanor’s creation, and the sorry tale of her mother’s history, is relayed in pieces throughout the film, as a frustrated Eleanor whispers to the wind and the sea, and finally, a young companion, the story she must never tell.
Mild spoilers, and discussion of trope-typical violence awaits readers under this non-sanguine cut.