24 April, 2015

Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

My interest in this film was piqued last year when he was among a list of several independent films to watch for in 2014. Elijah Wood was involved in the production, so I believe that put this film on the radar of critics, journalists, and film-lovers. I've not seen the short-film that was the precursor to this movie, and hopefully I haven't missed out on anything as a result.

The film is a subtitled, Iranian independent release from 2014. Shot in black & white; what is immediately striking is the cinematography, reminiscent of early Jim Jarmusch. This is a vampire film, and it takes place in the dying town of Bad City. Sheila Vand portrays "The Girl" and her presence is equal parts sexy, eerie, playful and mysterious. What director Ana Lily Amirpour captured perfectly was the intoxicating aura that vampire lore suggests, and was brilliant to stay away from the genre's many trappings. While "The Girl" is central to the plot of the film, it's the social and political undercurrent that transforms this film from simply a well-done indie horror movie into something that speaks volumes about not only the situation in Iran, but that human struggle is universal and we are all frail from the weight of our reality. "The Girl" is as motivated by hunger as she is by ridding the wrong, her interaction with a young child is riveting and terrifying. Amirpour was clever to tell a story and let it unfold, and avoid explaining how we got here, and why it mattered - because it doesn't. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night could have easily taken place in Cleveland or Detroit and still been completely relevant, and I think that's a mastery of story telling. Every performance is excellent, and the stark dereliction of the landscape is brilliantly captured. Arash Mirandi portrays a character that is believable given the circumstances of his day to day, an opportunistic young man trying to hold the fraying tethers of his reality together. Most writers would have him portray the hero or anti-hero instead of someone real, reacting the way a normal person reacts.

If there was a hiccup in the film, it was the score editing. There are parts where the music awkwardly fades out or drops out. It does become a bit distracting, but thankfully the scenes in which this occurs are without dialogue and the focus is on the interaction between two characters.

Please give this film a shot. Not for the horror-aspect, because it is not frightening. It is however eerie, gorgeous, sexy, well-acted, beautifully shot and brilliantly directed. And if I can offer one spoiler - the most important character is right at the beginning of the film...