"Be a good boy.”
Director Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature debut has been labelled as the first ever Iranian vampire western, and it does take a completely different approach from most generic films. It takes place in an Iranian town called Bad City (but was actually filmed in California) where a young James Dean look-alike, Arash (Arash Marandi) is desperately trying to get his father (Mozhan Marno) out of drugs. It doesn’t help that the local drug dealer and pimp, Saeed (Dominic Rains) takes advantage of his father’s addiction and is always getting him into debt. Saeed decides that it’s time for him to take Arash’s car as payment for his father’s debt. Saeed also keeps close track of his pump duties and is very harsh and demanding towards his girl, Atti (Mozhan Marno) who he is constantly tormenting. But Saeed isn’t the only one walking through the streets of Bad City, there is also a mysterious woman simply known as the girl (Sheila Vand) who happens to be a vampire that only feeds on people who terrorize others. In a scene early on in the movie she warns a young street kid (played by Milad Eghbali) to be a good boy and from then on she uses his skateboard to move along the streets in a hipster kind of way.
The film isn’t very heavy on dialogue and there isn’t much of a narrative structure other than the plot I just tried to summarize. The film is mostly concerned in building an eerie atmosphere and it resembles some of the early expressionistic films such as Nosferatu. The black and white cinematography by Lyle Vincent is gorgeous and stylish playing with lights and shadows. There are several dream sequences that sort of resemble Lynch’s style. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night has been praised by critics around the globe, but I felt the pacing drag during most of the film. Amirpour relies on the images to tell the story rather than on her written script and she sets the tone of the film through the use of her camera. Without the use of dialogue we get a sense of how these characters feel and the loneliness they experience. There is a very subtle romance that takes place between Vand and Marandi’s character that is at the heart of the story. Overall, despite the beautiful cinematography I simply couldn’t get engaged with the story and didn’t feel the film was doing anything new with the genre other than including a couple of satisfactory scenes. Perhaps having recently seen the other hipster vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive, left me yearning for a similar experience to that one.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night not only relied on the visuals to set the atmosphere of the film, the soundtrack is also used quite frequently with a couple of songs from White Lies and Federale. It succeeds at setting the right tone and mood, but it fails to tell an emotionally engaging story. If you are a fan of atmospheric films you will really love this film, but if you are like me and enjoy some narrative structure to your films, you might not have such a great time. There are a couple scenes that worked well, such as when the girl encounters Arash starring at a light post dressed as Dracula, but there are also several dreamy sequences that don’t go anywhere. The film is gorgeous to look at, but unfortunately for me the story didn’t transmit anything to me.