Throughout the movie, there are flashbacks to Clara’s past when she was a young girl raped by sailors, and her eventual “turning”. Now, Clara earns her keep as a streetwalker (or a prostitute, or a whore – this movie throws out all the terms).
This is one of the movie’s strong points – the comparison of prostitutes and vampires. Both sexual creatures that come out in the night, it’s an interesting comparison that I can’t think of another time it has been explored in this manner. However, there isn’t enough about this, and instead is a thematic piece of the movie that is glossed over.
Indeed, there are a lot of pieces of this movie that are glossed over. Though Ronan attempts to give some melancholy and drama to her role, the script isn’t very good to her (most of the script is just blah and predictable – and the flashbacks are the worst). Her budding relationship with a boy dying of cancer, and her eventual disclosure of her past, is by far the most interesting part of the movie. In the few scenes they share, you can get a feel for some of the pain that she must have. The creepiness factor is also played high here with a terrific scene involving a bloody rag.
Despite all this, any tension or worldbuilding that is done is constantly shattered by the shifting back and forth of the movie. I think it would have been a much better movie if they would have stuck in the past, or stuck in the future (preferably the latter, as it features Ronan). Instead, you keep losing the thread of what is happening, and nothing in the past is explained enough to keep you interested. I HATED (something I rarely say) the past scenes, as they were boring, sexist, and unnecessary. This all leads into the easily scene “twist” at the end, which also made me angry.
However, I did like the random scenes of ultra-violence that find their way into the film. The effects for these scenes are great, and their sporadic nature gives the film a bit of an unpredictable quality. These are the scenes that Arterton shines, because you believe in her anger. It’s something that made Tom Cruise’s character so good in Interview. That’s probably the worst thing about this movie, like the Ghostbusters remake, it feels like a retread of events from a previous film. The conflicting feelings about the nature of being a vampire were well-played out in Interview. Here, despite Ronan’s admirable performance, they just feel stale.
I’m giving Byzantium a “C-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"