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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 2 June 2013
Here, we are given a pair of two hundred year old vampires Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), who drift from place to place in hopes of finding peace and comfort, without any trouble. To uphold the average human lifestyle, Clara 'works' for the money to support her and her daughter Eleanor, as they approach a quiet seaside town, one which holds distant, dark and harsh memories for both of them, which begin to resurface with the return of certain characters from the past.
Neil Jordan has directed yet another entertaining and dark, historical vampire horror, that focuses more on a gritty atmosphere and a well-structured storyline with a narrative, much like IWTV, than the gore-laden sub-category of a vampire film. The blood isn't frequent compared to other modern-day horrors, but on the occasions when blood is present, there's a lot of it. The dark atmosphere and the quiet location of the seaside town add to the story as it creates references that connect with Whitby; the location of Bram Stoker's original novel. The soundtrack for Byzantium perfectly reflects the strained relationships between Clara and Eleanor as well as Eleanor and Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), especially Ronan's hypnotising piano sequence in the restaurant, which creates a somber atmosphere. Thankfully the atmosphere is held throughout the film and it never distracts us from the main storyline. I love this film because I had relatively low hopes for it, as I was more interested in watching The Purge, which we went to see straight after Byzantium finished in the cinema. It's funny how Byzantium proved to be much better than The Purge. The acting, the location, the story, and of course, the Blood Red Waterfalls on the coal black island, all contribute to this fine piece of cinema which I would surely watch again. It is well worth a watch.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2014
A stunningly original film, full of yearning and sadness, this has to be one of the best things I have watched for a very long time.

Quality Vampire fiction is out there and relatively easy to find but quality Vampire films are a rare breed indeed. Byzantium manages to be one such film through a combination of original elements, intricately woven amongst staples of the genre.

Two female Vampires live a transient existence, fleeing from those who hunt them. The pursuers are no Van Helsings but their own kind. In languorous, dreamlike flashback and modern day counterpoint, their relationships to each other and the strikingly different ways they view the world unfold. Flashback in film is often tricky to pull off, making one element always seem to over power the other but Jordan skilfully interweaves the narratives making both equally compelling and surprising.

Part horror, part drama laced with love and loss, this film is one for true Vampire fans. Saoirse Ronan, who plays Eleanor and Gemma Arterton, (of whom I am not normally a fan) playing Clara act their socks off, fully inhabiting the strange and lonely lives of the immortal. Caleb Landry Jones, who plays Frank, a teenage lad who tries to befriend Eleanor is a revelation in a pivotal role that would have been easy to crash and burn. His yearning is painfully real to watch and it is he that in many ways drives the piece, providing a glimpse of a life that Eleanor wants but can never have.

Neil Jordan's direction and vision is utterly perfect for the subject matter, rendering the film a visual and aural delight as much as an absorbing story. The colours, the lighting, the setting and above all, the knife edge between savagery and vulnerability is handled with masterful subtlety.

For the true aficionado there are markers from the canon of historical and modern Vampire mythology to be found. Numerous in-genre name checks and esoteric gothic touches give this an additional depth for the well-read Vampire fan. Highly recommended and one I will watch again and again. A glorious, gothic masterpiece.
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on 23 July 2013
Brooding, sometimes bleak, thoughtful, occasionally gory, and with a heart-rending emotional impact, this unique film is dominated by the extraordinary and very different performances of the two leads.

To classify this simply as a vampire movie is to seriously misrepresent it. Although the two central characters are immortal and live on human blood (but thankfully no fangs, no sleeping in coffins, no going up in a puff of smoke in the sunlight, and other worn vampire cliches), it is about much, much more. About two women living in a male-dominated world, always on the run from those that would hurt them. About two women stuck in a co-dependent relationship and where this leads (no plot spoilers here!). About what a woman might do to protect her child. About a young woman battling with her contradictory impulses to be alone and to be heard. About survival. And much, much more.

The film is a visual feast. Mundane scenes of a tacky, cold and wet, out-of-season seaside resort are interspersed with powerful images - two women walking across a cabbage field, an insect crawling across Eleanor's face, a waterfall of blood, Eleanor seeing herself across a span of two centuries, a sudden flight of birds. (EDIT: or were they bats? I saw them described as bats on another discussion board, which would make sense for flying creatures emerging from a place of special significance to vampires, but the way they wheel in flight make them look more like birds to me. Whatever, it's still a wonderful and dramatic image.)

Some have criticised Caleb Landry-Jones' "strange" performance as Frank. I didn't see it that way. He portrays a young man mentally scarred by a life-threatening illness. Very convincing, in my opinion. The development of the relationship between two old before their time youngsters, Frank and Eleanor - one of whom is literally old, "16 for ever" - is one of the strengths of the narrative for me.

This film may haunt you for a long time.
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on 29 September 2013
The actors are really brilliant, and so are the director and the screenplay. I hadn't enjoyed a vampire film so much since Jordan's Interview with the vampire. Watching Byzantium is the perfect way of rinsing your mind if, like me, you once had to watch insipid, mawkish and boring Twilight.The Blu Ray edition achieves great picture and sound quality.
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on 19 October 2013
This movie is utterly beautiful. A great storyline, ravishingly beautiful and competent actors, great locations and camera work second to none. Highest recommendations! You won't regret buying this splendid bluray!
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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2013
A slow burn but well acted and tense horror film, this sees Neil Jordan's first vampire movie since Interview With A Vampire about 2 women who move to a small coastal town. They have a secret that soon becomes clear, they are vampires. While not the best vampire film or best that director Neil Jordan has ever done either Byzantium while slow is a haunting film and certainly not a film for the Twilight crowd with good performances from Gemma Areterton and Saiorse Ronan in the lead roles.
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This is a clever film about another twist on the vampire legend; in this case a group of sexist vampires pursue a female vampire for "making" her own daughter. Into the tale come various interfering do-gooders, and a strangely mannered performance from Caleb Landry Jones as the twin soul for Saoirse Ronan. We learn more and more of the back story as the film progresses until the final showdown in Hastings. Good performances by everyone especially considering the vampire legend can, if we are left time to dwell on it, appear ludicrous. This film skillfully decided to delay that moment for a long time
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on 11 January 2016
Byzantium is an excellent vampire movie but it's not just a vampire movie. It's also a great movie about friendship, love and family which transcends genres. It is very aesthetic, the characters are interesting and the plot clever. There are also some great dialogues which continue to resonate long after the movie is over.

But viewers beware, albeit the presence of gore scenes, this is not at all an action movie like "Blade", and even though the movie focuses clearly on the characters and their relations, it's not a cheesy romantic movie like the "The Twilight Saga" either. If this is what you are looking forward to, you'll be disappointed.

This is a complex story that gives the viewers a small taste of immortality and its burden. I will put it in the same category as "Interview with a vampire" even if the stories are quite different. Note also the memorable performance of Saoirse Ronan who truly shines here.
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Directed by Neil Jordan, "Byzantium" tries to make a serious movie from the genre of the horror, vampire film. The movie has themes of loneliness, guilt, attempts to connect with others, together with strong feminist overtones. The movie tells the story of a mother-daughter pair of a type of vampire called a sucreant. They are able to walk during the day and use their fingernails more than fangs as a weapon of choice to draw blood. Eleanor Webb, forever 16, beautifully acted by Saorise Roman and her mother Clara Webb are the sucreants. They are each over 200 years old and are forced to flee from one British town to another as death follows in their wake.

Clara is forever a prostitute and latches on to a lonely client who owns a building called the Byzantium where she sets up her trade in both flesh and blood. The name of the hotel refers back to W.B. Yeats' famous imaginative poem "Sailing to Byzantium". ("This is no country for old men") Her daughter, shy and guilt-ridden, meets a young man and ultimately grows to trust him and reveal her secret life. Humans cannot know the secret of a sucreant and live.

There are flash-backs to the earlier lives of the women, which led to their becoming sucreants. Clara is involved with a group of male sucreants who try to push off and subordinate the women of the species. Clara tries to restrict her feedings to the rich and mean spirited of humanity while Eleanor feels guilty about her life and searches for love.

I found the movie a near miss. It includes some good acting, particularly from Saorise Roman, good period portrayals of brothels, and some stunning visual effects. But I thought that on the whole the movie was slow, disjointed, and too full of clichés to be convincing.

Robin Friedman
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I have been waiting for this film ever since I first heard of it two years ago and I wasn't disappointed. I never really liked Jordan's 'Interview with the vampire' but I loved this. Gemma Arterton is perfectly cast as Clara, the tart with a thirst for blood and gets the relationship with her daughter perfect. Forever 16 year old Ella played by Saoirse Ronan as her daughter is the other side of the coin, thoughtful and romantic and only feeding from those who seek death in a reflection of her puritan upbringing. For 200 years they have been on the run from a brotherhood of male vampires who see them as an abomination and the story sees them flee to a run down seaside town without initially realising that this is where their story first began. Things start to unravel when Ella, ever the romantic, gets involved with a young man who is dying and Clara realises that her daughter could bring their whole existence to an end.
This isn't your typical blood and fangs vampire story where they all have super strength and are martial arts expert. These vampires are immortals who depend on blood for their existence and their existence is actually quite sad. When Ella is asked how long it took her to learn the piano so well she replies 'two hundred years' and therein lies the truth of their life.
Neil Jordan has captured the loneliness of the immortal existence as well as he has captured the seediness of the town in which the story is set and created possibly the best vampire movie since 'Let the right one in'. Don't bother watching this if you want scary or bloodthirsty though, it is neither.
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