A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
I’ve always been a fan of the idea of firsts. I may not always like the end result, but when you make something unique or that we haven’t seen before, you should be getting a certain type of recognition for it. “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” is the very first Iranian made, Western inspired Vampire film. With her first full length feature, Ana Lily Amirpour has fused a visual palette similar to that of a Sergei Leone western, with the surreal nature of a classic Vampire tale. The film is set in the fictional town of “Bad City”, a place with a stench of addiction and loneliness. It’s townspeople go about living there painfully mundane existence, all the while blind to the fact they have a lonesome vampire living in their midst. The story centers on several different characters, the most important being Arash (played by Arash Marandi). He’s a young man doing odd maintenance jobs in order to pay off his father Hossein’s (Marshall Manesh “True Lies”), drug debt. On the other side of town, a mysterious girl (Sheila Vand “Argo”), is seemingly selecting men as victims, based on their overall treatment of the town’s women. Women that include Atti, the local prostitute (Mozhan Marno) and a beautiful princess named Shaydah (played by the lovely Rome Shadanloo). The film also stars Dominic Rains and Milad Eghbali.
It’s a credit to young Ana for writing such an experimental and different screenplay. Making the very first Iranian film in this sub-genre is quite an accomplishment, and one this reviewer deems worth noting. Aside from this being the first of its kind, the colorful and standout poster also helped sell me on the idea. I was impressed that with only a handful of short films to her name, Amirpour has a clear grasp of the technical side of things and what works best for a film like this. This is the second movie I’ve watched in the last week that was shot entirely in black and white and I’m loving it. Given the landscape here and the town’s apparent isolation, the lack of color ties in nicely with the desired atmosphere. Not only that, but the shot choices are carefully structured and the audio is consistent. There’s also an assortment of different music. Some songs work better than others, but it’s all got a specific style or sound catering to the individual scene. There’s a wonderful Tarantino inspired piece of music that plays during the opening credits sequence. Some of the electro, pop rock music playing during interactions with The Girl and Arash, reminded me of the film “Drive” and I thought they were amongst the best pieces.
When it comes to the performances no one really misses a beat, the timing and delivery are both good. I had seen Sheila in Argo and thought she was quite a good actress, she backs that up here. All the more memorable because it’s a role that relies heavily on her facial expressions and the way she carries herself, because dialogue is scarce. Early on, Arash reminded me of a young James Dean cross with actor Mike Erwin. This was a key role and he played it pretty well. It was nice to see Marshall Manesh in such a different film. The guy’s a solid actor, with a lot of credits who always does his bit. Mozhan who appears in TV’s “House Of Cards”, rounds out the supporting cast nicely. I’ve been chatting a bit with the beautiful Rome Shadanloo about the film and how she got into acting. I was disappointed that her character of The Princess wasn’t explored to greater lengths. She brings a classic beauty to it, but unfortunately only appears in a couple of scenes. I understand in order to keep the running time down, a lot of stuff that get’s shot ends up being cut, I just think the film had it’s fair share of filler that could have been cut instead. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is in short supply of action but a couple of the sequences that are on-screen look cool. One involving a finger done with practical effects was the highlight.
I noticed several times throughout the film there was a bad glare from the lighting, it only appeared for a short time but ruined the look of a couple of shots. I didn’t understand the relevance of the cat in the beginning either. My perception was that Arash was either stealing the cat, or retrieving it from someone his Father had got on the wrong side of. Or maybe he was trying to sell it? I’m not sure what was going on there, it was a bizarre opening sequence. I understand in the context of this story a minimal amount of characters probably sufficed. Saying that, “Bad City” could have been filled out a little with a secondary cast of extras, to make it look like a rougher town than it was. One of my main issues was the fact that we really don’t get to learn much about The Girl. She’s basically just a shell of a character that never gets explored. We don’t find out how she came to end up in the town, or her main purpose for being there. Nothing gets revealed through the dialogue and it’s missing some much-needed flashback sequences. In the end there’s little to no context within the overall story. What was the relevance of stealing victims jewellery, valuables and such? Was she doing it trying to get money in order to leave the town? A solid reasoning for that plot point wasn’t made known to the viewer.
A couple of the more surreal scenes started out quite poignant, but coupled with a series of overly long music montages ended up dragging on far too long. In fact, a lot of the uneventful scenes are the ones that stretch the running time, and the scenes that could have been explored further aren’t. Simple stories can often be the most pure and authentic, they deliver honesty and your almost always entertained when there done right. Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is all about character, and in particular Arash and The Girl. We probably get just barely enough coverage when it comes to Arash, but we fail to learn anything at all about The Girl and that’s the big problem. The lack of development with a key character, in this case the key character is one thing, but combine it with the very slow burn nature of this one and you can find yourself quickly losing interest.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night deserves its accolades for being the first of its kind to come out of Iran. The mundane existence these people live, parallel’s that of the characters in Harmony Korine’s, “Gummo”. Mixed with the industrial feel of “Eraserhead”, Amirpour channels a harsh and bleak reality, that’s handled with absolute professionalism. The film looks and sounds great, and the characters although not fully fleshed out are still competently written. Unfortunately this reviewer relies on multifaceted storytelling delivered faster than snail’s pace, something this film is sadly missing. I wanted to really immerse myself in it and the beautiful Princess character almost intrigued me enough, but alas. People who don’t mind plodding films might enjoy this one more than I, none the less it’s still a very well made film I just saw some missed potential.
My rating for “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” is 5.5/10