So Byzantium got lost in the vampire trend of the early 2010s. On paper, it’s got a lot going for it. Unless you have been living under a rock, you should be aware of the ocean blue Irish goddess herself: Saoirse Ronan. She’s perfection in every movie she touches. Probably even The Host as well which I haven’t seen but who knows what’s going to happen during these times. Neil Jordan is the director who also directed one of -if not- the best vampire movie Interview With A Vampire. Saoirse’s co-lead is Gemma Arterton who deserves a lot more shine than she gets. Caleb Landry Jones is yet another captivating actor who I get excited about every time I see him in a movie. The cast is also rounded out by the likes of Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller and others. Byzantium, in my mumble but correct opinion, is drastically underrated.
Byzantium is a strange but compelling cross between a coming of age story, a vampire horror and an on the run thriller all wrapped up in a drama of a love between a mother and child. Ronan plays Eleanor Webb, a young lonely vampire restless and longing for permanency as her mother Clara (Gemma Arterton) desperately tries remain afloat and protect her daughter by all cost necessary. The duo seek refuge in a new town after another failed attempt to remain hidden yet the vampires who hunt them are never too far behind them. Clara’s brash and ruthlessness conflict with the delicate and wistful ways of Eleanor, taking a toll on their relationship and their flimsy way of life. When Eleanor finds companionship in a boy named Frank, the secrets of their past begin to squander the very thing Eleanor has ever wanted: a life of simplicity and free of lies.
The casual inserts of neon in the dim world that Eleanor and Clara are drowning in is the perfect juxtaposition of the duo themselves. The light in them both however different that light might be. The cinematography and score amplify of the emptiness and solitude of eternal life. It’s all together a gorgeous movie emotionally and aesthetically. A movie that regardless of it being about vampires has a clear and loud heartbeat that pulses through you with every frame.
I will find myself saying the same things about Saoirse Ronan in every movie since I first saw her in Atonement. I stand by my thoughts I’ve held for years that Saoirse Ronan is one of the greats of our time and will go down in film history as such. For example, Saoirse didn’t know how to play piano before the movie. She ended up mastering a Beethoven sonata in 12 weeks. She’s unreal. We know this.
So I’ll direct my attention to Gemma Arterton. There is no doubt she is stunningly beautiful. I’ve often aligned her with Scarlett Johansson in my mind. The industry tried to box both of them in as sex symbols. A title that does more harm than good to a young actress’ career. Whatever talent they might have is shoved aside for them to be objectified for their beauty rather than much more important attributes they have. Gemma in Byzantium and others movies she has been in has been able to show her true diversity as an actress. Scarlett has also been afforded the same in many of her more recent movies.
It’s easier to conform and shut up. That’s the way it’s always been with women. Easier than putting yourself out there and having an opinion, to which someone might retaliate. I’m sure there are people who don’t want to work with me because they think I’m difficult – ‘one of those feminist girls’ – but to be honest with you I don’t want to work with them. And that’s fine. Now.Gemma Arterton
I’ll conclude this with a simple fact that I love Byzantium and I recommend it. But this could be the same with any movie in this series. I’m literally only rewatching movies that I have actual love for that I haven’t watch in a long time. So if you haven’t seen it, watch it. Even if you’ve seen it before, watch it again. Just watch it!