The irony here is that Ronan (Hanna, The Host) was involved in one of the many jump-start franchises that failed to be “the new Twilight”.  Byzantium is so much more than a vampire story, and so much better than all of the Twilight series filmed, combined. Based on the play by Moira Buffini (she also did the screenplay), acclaimed director Neil Jordon (The End of the Affair, The Brave One) once again descends into a dark world that has become his specialty.  Ronan gives one of her most complex and dynamic performances, which is saying a lot when you go back and look at this young actress’ body of work.  This seems like the beginning of a mythology; however, this small independent film will stand on its own.

Eleanor (Ronan) and her mother Clara (Arterton) move from town to town, but just when they are about to get situated, they have to flee and burn what they leave behind.  For over 200 years, Eleanor has been in this pattern, not allowing herself to get close to anyone because of the repercussions her kind bring with them.  She writes her story down on paper and tosses it to the wind, never able to speak about the truth that haunts her.  Eleanor watches as her prostitute herself to provide money and shelter for them. The story she wants to tell is a dark one, about waterfalls of red blood and the burden of never getting old.

There is a unique quality to Byzantium that you won’t find in Beautiful Creatures, The Host, or even Twilight; that is, grander storytelling on a very small scale (and budget). It’s taking a dark storyline and using creative resources and good actors to bring the film to life instead of throwing in a well-known cast, a big budget, and franchise appeal, and hoping for the best.  The contrast here is that Eleanor in present time is looking back on the story of her life that she is just bursting to tell, which makes this very compelling. Jordon tells stories in this manner quite often, giving us pieces along the way that eventually add up to a whole.

Beyond just being told well, Byzantium is a different kind of vampire film; it does take itself very seriously and never results in the kind of romantic illusions Stephanie Meyers’ books do.  It’s also rated R, which, in itself, is more encouraging because there are no restraints on the type of violence or content that one expects to see in a dark, brooding film about vampires.

Final Thought – Everything the Twilight series should have been.

Grade B-

By: Dustin Chase