08/29/2015 06:54

Film: Byzantium

Year: 2012

Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Moira Buffini

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton and Sam Riley



This film begins with Saorise Ronan narrating that she writes her story and then throws it to the wind. She knows she can’t tell anyone her story, but it helps her to write it down and then get rid of it. An old man finds her paper and picks it up. He looks up to her and asks if that is hers. Ronan leaves the apartment and joins him on the steps.

We meet another woman, who is working as an exotic dancer. She is played by Gemma Arterton. She gets attacked while giving a lap dance and bites the nose of the man who attacked her. We hear that she isn’t on the books, so she tries to take her money from the till. There is a man that has come into the club looking for her; he is played by Thure Lindhardt. He chases after her.

Back at the apartment, we learn that the old man has been picking up Ronan’s discarded story and knows there is more to it than what she is letting on. She claims at first that it isn’t real, but when the old man presses she admits it’s the truth. The old man is ready to pass on and Ronan eases him into death. She is a vampire.

Lindhardt chases Arterton onto a roof and then she jumps through a skylight. Lindhardt follows her and she gives up. She takes him to her apartment. Arterton pretends to clean up Lindhardt’s wounds, but cuts his head off with a garret. Ronan enters the apartment and Arterton tells her to leave. Ronan is irate with what she finds and Arterton tells her to pack because they are leaving. They set the apartment on fire.

From here the story is split into two and both progress to the climax and ending. Part of it is what is happening now in the story while the other is showing what happened in the past. Most of the telling of the past comes from Ronan writing the story and telling parts of her tale to those that she is about to ease into death or to someone who really isn’t listening.

In the present, Arterton has fallen back on what she has done in the past, which is prostitution. Her first potential client, played by Daniel Mays, breaks down before she does anything for him. She learns that his mother ran a hotel in town and she talks him into letting her and her little sister live with him. He agrees.

We learn that the city they have fled to was the same city that Arterton was born in, over two hundred years ago. While she was digging up clams for pearls she meets two navy men. One is played by Sam Riley, who is nice and his superior is played by Jonny Lee Miller. He asks the younger version of Arterton if she wants a ride. Riley tells her not to go.

She does go with him and he takes her to a whorehouse. Miller is the one who turned her into a whore and that is what she always falls back on when she needs money. She becomes pregnant and has a child that will become Ronan. The mistress who runs the whorehouse tells her that she can’t keep her child. Arterton leaves her at an orphanage and leaves a note to tell the child that she has died and will pay gold for Ronan’s care.

In the present, Ronan keeps being haunted from images of the past in the town that they live in now. She also meets a boy that has his own issues; he is played by Caleb Landry Jones. He is dying of leukemia. Ronan accidently knocks him off his bike and he cuts his wrist. He has to be rushed to the hospital by his parents, since his blood is very thin. Ronan goes to see him, much to the delight of his mother, who is played by Kate Ashfield.

Arterton has decided to stay at the hotel for as long as they can. She also turns it into a whorehouse. She kills the local pimp and gives haven to all of the girls that are doing the same thing she has done. Ronan doesn’t like it and wishes her mother wouldn’t do what she does, but she tells her she has to do what she has to survive.

Ronan enrolls in school and their assignment is telling the story of your life, but it has to be true. She writes the truth and gives it to Jones. He doesn’t believe it and calls Ronan out about it. She also gives it to his teacher who shows it to the principal. She has inadvertently messed everything up and breaking Arterton’s number one rule of not telling what they are.

We also see that there are two men looking for Arterton and Ronan. One of them is Riley and the other is Uri Gavriel. There is a secret brotherhood of vampires that are the nail of justice. They do not allow women in and all the men are highborn. Arterton stole the gift and curse when it was given to Miller. Arterton and Ronan have been on the run from them.

Will Arterton and Ronan survive? Will the brotherhood kill them? Will Arterton and Ronan go on living the way they have been or will they continue to just exist? Should the brotherhood kill the women or allow them to continue to live their lives?

I really liked this movie. This took the vampire story and does something I haven’t seen before. I love that Arterton lived a meaningless life until she was made into a whore by a cruel man. When this cruel man is given a gift in front of her, I don’t blame her for taking it and I like her idea of what she will do it for it. I love that Arterton gave up Ronan and has made her into such a pure character, even though she is vampire. I think the story is complex, yet easy to follow. You have characters who don’t know how to take love, because of their curse and they know that they will outlive their love. I was entranced to see how this played out.

My only issues with this film were that it does take place over seas; I had to watch it with subtitles to ensure I got everything from it. You need to pay attention to this one to ensure you don’t miss anything. I was a little bit confused about what turns the characters into vampires. I get that there is a shrine on a nameless island where when you enter, something bites you and then you turn. The water that falls down the rocks turns to red afterward. I didn’t understand it, but it doesn’t ruin the film. I just like to understand all of it.

If you like vampire films, I would recommend this one. If you want to see a film with great acting, I would say give this one a viewing. This is also a highly realistic vampire film too. They don’t have superpowers outside of immortality. They can walk in the sunlight as well. I would definitely say give this one a viewing.


My Rating: 8 out of 10