Exceptionally well-acted and well-directed, Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium” is one of those sorely underseen gems that deserves a second chance by genre audiences. Right from the get go, Jordan’s movie weaves a spell over its audience, thanks to a memorable combination of camera work, color palettes, intriguing dialogue, a haunting score and fascinating acting. Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton carry the first half together, each committed to their mysterious roles as the narrative slowly unravels, and by the time they arrive at the titular hotel the audience is completely engaged. It’s a vampire story that recalls 1994’s “Interview with the Vampire” (also directed by Jordan) thanks to its sensual approach to vampirism and immortality but differs dramatically by focusing its thematic, emotional impact on its female characters: Both Ronan and (especially) Arterton’s characters are defined by the harm done to them by men throughout their lives, and watching them gradually assert and defend themselves is genuinely enthralling. As Ronan’s love interest, Caleb Landry Jones makes the movie even more resonant thanks to his striking screen presence and palpable chemistry with Ronan.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)