Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a promising feature debut, full of style, amazing music and an inspired take on the vampire genre.
Set in the Iranian town of Bad City, the film focuses on the lives of a small group of individuals whose paths interconnect around sex, drugs, crime and a cat. At it’s core is a pair of young, would be lovers; Arash, a hard working kid whose struggles with his heroin addicted dad force him into dealing and a mysterious girl who floats around Bad City stalking its residents in the night.
The film is a bit of everything, for better and worse, but everything good Amirpour throws up on that screen far outweighs the bad. Things felt a bit too episodic and disconnected as a whole, but everything comes together fairly nicely in the end. The last couple scenes of the film really pull everything together and Amirpour does a fantastic job of expressing Arash’s inner turmoil almost entirely visually.
I wonder though if that choice was entirely stylistic or a bit out of necessity as I found her lead, Arash Marandi to be a bit of a dud in front of the camera. His look is incredibly striking, but the less he opened his mouth the better. He did stand out in one scene in particular to his credit, when he meets The Girl on the street for the first time, strung out on E.
Speaking of The Girl, Sheila Vand is arresting as the mysterious young woman roaming the streets of Bad City and I almost always found myself wishing we went back to her more and more as the film went on. That blank stare on her face never changes, but you can’t look away as she prowls around her victims and sizes up Arash in the process. Vand exudes the perfect level of creepiness to unsettle you, but you still might kind of like her too.
The warmer side of The Girl’s personality is greatly helped by her fantastic taste of music as Amirpour’s soundtrack helps elevate this film that would otherwise possibly play as too subtle. The Iranian pop music brings so much life to the picture which is full of characters who seemingly have none. Amirpour also pairs the music wonderfully with her images that are some of the best black and white compositions in recent memory. Amirpour’s abilities are the real star here and I can’t wait to see what she does when she finds a story with maybe a bit more substance.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a lot of things, but it is most impressive as a showcase of the promising talents of its young director, Ana Lily Amirpour. A solid little vampire tale with some unsettling moments, Amirpour’s film is all at once cool, stylish and mighty impressive from a filmmaking standpoint. Now somebody find me that soundtrack.