At first glance, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has the trademarks of a typical pretentious indie film. However, the movie’s stylistic choices and deft execution make it a worthwhile cinematic experience.
The movie, which calls itself a western vampire, presents conventional elements in its own unique way.
It’s set in a place called Bad City, which could be Iran or Detroit but open to interpretation. The place looks deserted and has a ditch of dead bodies that people nonchalantly pass by.
It’s stalked by a female vampire who is an anti-hero and a feminist avenger. The girl forms a few non-predatory relationships along the way but does not lose her identity. The movie focuses on her interaction with other characters and does it in interesting ways that still contributes to the story.
In one scene that flips their dynamic, she lets Arash – a handsome guy who has fallen for her – pierce her ear with a safety pin which he sterilized with his lighter so that she can wear his gift – a pair of earrings he stole from an employer.
The plot develops at a glacial space but presented beautifully. The monochromatic cinematography is combined with camerawork, lighting, and effects to sustain its eerie mysterious mood, reflect the inner thoughts of its characters, and build iconography.
There’s not much characterization here, but the movie imbues them with qualities that still make their roles interesting and sympathetic. The vampire is a lonesome young woman but she’s not burdened by immortality and ennui. Arash is a handsome James Dean wannabe who owns a vintage Thunderbird and lives with his drug addict father. The supporting characters are given enough details to make them believable people stuck in a ghost town.
While all of this makes for a great artful cinema with catchy tunes even in a foreign language, it’s easy for anyone to see A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night as nothing but one of those artsy-fartsy films that critics rave about but no one can make sense of.
It’s tediously slow with characters that you can barely care about. Whatever fearful events that transpire in its mostly uneventful plot are generic vampire activity.
While it’s true that the movie prioritizes imagery and borrows from other genres, its consistent and brilliant execution makes it endearing, especially for those who have a wider film palette.
Like its protagonist, the movie knows exactly what it is and what it’s supposed to do. It’s a cinematic expression of loneliness, isolation, and exile. The director – Ana Lily Amirpour – who is an Iranian born in England and raised in the US, may also be drawing from her experience.
The movie (which blends American pop culture references and Iranian culture) also speaks about the existence of a person who lives in an adopted homeland but still tethered to her roots, floating along in her own kind of Chador.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the first Iranian Western Vampire tale – a romance story set in a desolate landscape once stalked by an outlaw who changes the lives of its unfortunate inhabitants forever and rides away into the night.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a unique Iranian western vampire tale that sustains curiosity and leaves you with memorable imagery.