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REVIEW – A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Produced by: Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah, Elijah Wood
Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Edited by: Alex O’Flinn
Cinematography by: Lyle Vincent
Music by: Johnny Jewel
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali
Based on the short film by Ana Lily Amirpour
Year: 2014

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, as a film, is as vague and provocative as its title suggests. Its hero, the titular Girl, is herself a mystery, spending her nights walking down the streets of the ravaged Bad City, Iran, cloaked in the darkness with the help of her pitch black chador. The conservative covering suggests a subservient nature to everyone who encounters her, but it’s more than that – it’s a disguise this unassuming and lonely Girl puts on to conceal her true identity. She’s an empowered, strong woman who will not be taken advantage of, least of all by men who see her and other women as objects to own and use. She is no object. In fact, she isn’t even really human…

Elsewhere in Bad City resides Arash, a young repairman who barely makes enough to get by. He cares for his father as best he can, but due to his father’s drug addiction, he owes a great deal of money they can’t pay back, and so Arash is ironically forced into taking the only other work he can find: dealing drugs at parties. One night, while attending a costume party, however, Arash – dressed as Dracula – is tempted to join in on the fun, but while he intends to capture the attention of the pretty girl who invited him, he instead finds himself depressed and wandering the shadow-engulfed streets of Bad City. As if by fate, Arash finds himself in the company of the Girl, who has in turn taken note of apparently more than just his suddenly appropriate attire…

I must note that the allure of vampires as romantic subjects has never really registered with me. Sure, I understand why some might find them sexy or attractive, but just understanding the why isn’t really the same as feeling it, of course. Naturally, there’s that one particular, pasty-white, glittering elephant in the room staring back at us, but let’s not bother ourselves with that hopefully soon-to-be-forgotten relic of a few years ago, now, shall we? That being said, while I’m hardly a connoisseur or anything, I have to say that before I saw A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, I can’t recall ever seeing a vampire romance film that’s felt quite so authentic as this one. Let the Right One In might come close, but that was definitely more akin to a coming of age film than a straight up romance, so… I’m standing by my opinion.

Unlike so many other seemingly mismatched but perfect couples, the attraction between Arash and the Girl feels as though it’s a natural extension of who they are, and the movie focuses on the unexpected sweetness of their burgeoning romance. Neither one is really prepared to tell the other the exact details of their nature, but they are, to varying degrees, willing, or at least showing signs of wanting to pursue something deeper now that they have found each other – her, the girl who is always on alert to avenge the abused, and him, the boy who is decent and understanding enough to allow her to put those defenses down for once.

 

Of course, romance isn’t all that A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night offers. This Persian-language (but California-filmed) production borrows a lot from other films as a sort of throwback film, blending French New Wave cinema with a gothic and dystopian aesthetic, clothing the Girl as if she were a mod from the Middle East and presenting Arash as a James Dean type, and pumping out ‘80s-style synth pop thanks to its killer soundtrack, etc. The film is even presented in stunning black and white to complete the eclectic look and feel. Even though it’s borrowing elements from a number of other sources, however, A Girl Walks Alone At Home At Night still manages to feel like its own, unique work thanks in large part to the way in which it combines these elements.

The film takes its time – much like the film Drive, this film is frequently confident enough to let its characters’ expressions and the mood of the music and atmosphere tell their stories – so it may not be for everyone. can certainly see where certain elements may prove to be more superfluous than complementary – perhaps the emphasis on subplots regarding Arash’s father and a prostitute whom the Girl protects will feel a bit more superfluous upon further viewings – but, in all honesty, I think the underlying themes of female empowerment and male vulnerability that first time director Ana Lily Amirpour seems to be conveying through her characters and the danger-filled world they live in ensures the potentially dull romantic aspect remains almost as compelling as the visuals are gorgeous – which I assure you says a lot about the quality of the film, overall.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 4 / 5

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