“A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT” (Sundance Movie Review)
In Bad City, evil is relative. The fictional Iranian town, which exists only in a dreamy, anamorphic black-and-white, houses a small population which runs the spectrum of its namesake quality. And who’s to say who is worse than anyone else? Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour is. Is a sleazy, coked-up, aggressive pimp any more terrible than who he employs? Is the silent vampire stalking the streets any less terrible because we love her? Well, yes, but not in light of their actions. In A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, the embodiment of evil is lack of connection.
Stricken with romantic fever, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT ‘s Bad City is a place that can only live on screen because it is constructed so mainly by other filmic and sonic qualities: vampires, the widescreen of Sergio Leone, the out-of-time 50s cool of David Lynch. That’s Amirpour connecting with us, the viewer, as we watch The Girl (Sheila Vand) seek out her own connection in a desolate town with little. Most everything in Bad City is instead transaction: addict & dealer, John & hooker, pimp & prostitute. In the middle lies Arash, a young, James Dean-styled gardener who cares for his car and getting out of dodge. His father constitutes two of the aforementioned vices (Addict, John) and when he can’t pay for the former, Arash’s cherry ride is claimed by the pimp/dealer. Upon trying to get it back is where Arash first lays eyes on The Girl, a mostly wordless vampire who roams Bad City in a chador.
What follows is a less a horror film, and more a (sometimes languid) hangout haze as The Girl, Arash and the film swoon to Western, Middle Eastern and electronic cues throughout. Together, they fall in love. Separately, Arash struggles with his estranged father and that truly illicit idea of “transaction,” while The Girl and Amirpour together compose intoxicating visuals. With a simple, Chador-aided silhouette in the stark B&W, the vampire of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT immediately becomes a bold, unforgettable image. Vand’s performance transforms her into something otherworldly, however. With little dialogue, Vand’s physicality is at the forefront as she effortlessly transitions from something dreamy and tender on a skateboard to an intimidating presence, haunting the background of an enrapturing shot.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is largely an ode to that idea of just simply connecting, especially over a bubble of pop culturespeak. There’s little political intent or motivation afoot, which may surprise viewers expecting its Farsi dialogue and Iranian locale to provide parallel (although the presiding idea of the need to relate might provide such). Instead, the film itself seems the makeup of its director’s cinema and music-devoted brain, stirring a pot of Iranian heritage influence and a lifetime of media consumption into one, strange, alluring beast. If there’s anything particularly topical however, it lies within the The Girl’s wardrobe, which takes on a cape-like quality reminiscent of both superheroes and the most iconic vampire of all, Dracula. While a symbol of oppression to many, The Girl’s chador not only lends to her mysterious nature, but becomes representative of the many women across the world who choose to wear them of their own volition.