girl_walks_home_alone_at_night_1Year: 2014
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer(s): Ana Lily Amirpour
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: Unrated
Digital, Color, 99 mins

Synopsis: In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire. (Source)

If Jim Jarmausch’s Only Lovers Left Alive didn’t convince you, Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night proves that vampires are unquestionably cool again. Unlike the former’s elitist bohemian bloodsuckers however, Amirpour’s film is a bit more accessible, giving us a vigilante vampire who skateboards, listens to vinyl while having solitary dance parties and idolizes pop icons/art. Amirpour’s created an instantly iconic character who lives, breathes and exists in a world where impressionistic tone and emotion are the main narrative currency, cleverly taking vampire iconography and spinning it into something modern and original. Touted as an Iranian vampire western, the film’s genre-defying blend of horror, romance and coming of age is sure to connect with those who like dark delicacies with a twist. Trust me when I say, this film is a fierce shot to the arm with plenty of bite and substance to back up its striking, hypnotic style.

The story takes place in a fictional town Bad City. It’s a ghost town full of thieves, hookers, pimps, and one very lonely vampire who has more secrets and guilt than any of them combined. Known only as The Girl, she patrols the night akin to an apex predator, taking down unsavory types while infusing her own brand of justice to the town’s downtrodden inhabitants. Also in Bad City is a boy named Arash. He keeps to himself while coping with a junkie father and doing his best to make ends meet. The film is about these two separate lives, both who don’t really fit in, and how they converge in the most unlikeliest places. Together, their inexplicable bond makes the unsavory world around each other make sense, bringing to light universal truths that resonate on a fundamental level.

What makes the film so immersive is the way it draws you in with its dreamlike qualities, boasting an otherworldly mix of sight and sound. Starting with photographer Lyle Vincent’s stunning black-and-white photography, Amirpour drenches each composition with eerie atmosphere, cloaking and contrasting characters against formless seas of black to evoke her characters’ intentions and struggles. Even the design of her heroine is drenched in symbology, as she hunts dressed in a black Persian chador that she wears like a superhero outfit. There’s hardly anything wasted in each frame, diverging the complexity of her characters with a simple, free-flowing story. Weaving the film and each character’s disparate worlds together is a soundtrack that blends tradition Iranian music with pulsating electro, pop and folk. The music even filters into the relationship between The Girl and Arash, with most of their interactions and feelings stemming from the music they listen to together. It’s a smart way of giving the film a universal language which is timeless and needs no explanation beyond the instinctual. At the heart of it all, this is a beautiful story about the collision of two worlds, and two characters struggling to find themselves and each other, doing the best with what they’ve got in a morally grey world that does them no favors.

girl_walks_home_alone_at_night_2Really making the film come to life, are the performances of The Girl and Arash, Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi, respectively. We see almost the first act of the film from Arash’s perspective before his world becomes intertwined with The Girl. Arash has a charm to him that builds off of his mystique and swagger – self confident, yet vulnerable. He’s bound for big things, commanding the screen without being overbearing and still feeling very natural. The other revelation is Sheila Vand as The Girl. Vand perfectly encapsulates an old soul trapped within a body she no longer understands in many ways. There’s a very alien quality to her and her emotions that equate to innocence despite the guilt and rage that she’s capable of. She can switch from terrifying to demure and childlike in the blink of an eye – the nuance in every one of her deliberate actions are staggering. Together, both characters transform again, playing off of each other with genuine chemistry and honesty. Though they barely audibly talk to each other, you can feel and understand what they’re telling each other through body language and what they don’t say.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a really special film built on alluring contrasts – life and death, beauty and gore, tension and release. It’s the work of Amirpour’s singular exciting voice, one that’s a refreshing perspective on the world around us. Just when I thought vampires were getting played out, the film resets the idea of what they are in relation to our mortal fears, giving us a poignant story about the grace that can be brought out of darkness.

SG