A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Review
Since its premiere at Sundance 2014, black and white vampire flick A Girl Walks Alone at Night has built up a dedicated following. Based on a comic book and a short by its American-Iranian director, Lily Ana Amirpour, the film, shot in Persian, is reinventing the genre with art-house flair along the likes of Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. Amirpour is already working on her second feature, The Bad Batch, “a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story set in a Texas wasteland.” A Girl is a beautifully made film, with skillful quiet acting, but unfortunately fails to exploit the originality of its central idea fully.
In a small Iranian forlorn town named Bad City, a young woman known as ‘The Girl’ (Sheila Vand) meanders the streets late at night. A lonely and music-loving vampire, she observes the doings of other night dwellers while staking out her prey. Meanwhile Arash (Arash Marandi), an ambitious young man, is struggling to cope with his father’s drug addiction and accumulating debt.
A Girl’s has a truly original concept at its heart. Amirpour re-appropriates the symbols of women’s subjugation in Iran and transforms them into gothic menace: the long, black chador becomes a flowing vampirical cape; ‘The Girl’, appearing vulnerable to those around her, uses this to entrap her prey, or assert authority over the men who try to intimidate her. The black and white cinematography contributes to creating this unexpected gothic ambiance - frightening shadows are accentuated, and Amirpour returns regularly to the sinister movement of oil pumps. Yet, the character is more than a stand-in allegory. Amirpour cuts her a complex personality, and The Girl’s meanderings are not directed by an overall message, or mission, beyond that of having fun.
Amipour depicts life in Bad City as bleak. Loneliness seems its prime flaw, twinned with a thriving drug commerce. In depicting their solitude, the two leads are mesmerising. Sheila Vand delivers an enthralling performance with her eyes, flickering between anger, threat, and tenderness, while Arash Marandi creates a convincing melange of raw vulnerability and deadpan drive for revenge. Their moments of connection are stirring, intensified by a superbly curated soundtrack. The gothic shapes The Girl’s world, while the Western genre is Arash’s, who is framed within wild empty landscapes, and car cool. This, and the wistfulness of their meeting has flavours of Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas.
Yet, while incredibly well produced and acted, A Girl Walks Alone At Night lacks bite. Given the truly original idea at its core, it is disappointing that Amirpour chose a standard plot to drive the film. A more daring, boundary-pushing storyline could have made this into a very strong piece - even maybe a cult classic. In addition, the director confusingly spends equal amounts of time on her ordinary characters and The Girl. As a result, a number of the scenes leading up to her encounter with Arash feel superfluous, including a banal drug-induced illusion sequence. The screen time could have been better spent exploring her character further.
Quiet films gain much from short bursts of powerful dialogue - think Steve McQueen’s middle 20 minute sequence in Hunger. A Girl Walks Alone At Night stays quiet throughout, and consequently, the film holds no stand out emotion or message. The director suggests hints of feminism, a critique of the indifferent upper echelons of society, and reflections on loneliness, without digging any further.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is nonetheless excellently made, and an unusual watch.