Suspension of disbelief is crucial for viewing a lot of films – but with some it is distinctly more vital than others. Ana Lily Amirpour’s directorial debut (feels like we’ve had a lot of those recently), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is among the best recent examples of this.
Set in the fictional Iranian ghost town of Bad City, the film follows the exploits of a mysterious young woman known only as ‘the girl’, who spends her nights stalking men with evil intentions and scaring little boys so they don’t grow up to become one.
It is shot entirely in black and white, which goes some way to creating a dream-like atmosphere reminiscent of David Lynch’s Eraserhead; that it takes place in an industrial setting, full of the sounds and imagery of that environment, also recalls Lynch’s own groundbreaking debut. Yet A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night bears its own unique signature, and never comes across as some half-hearted wannabe.
To sum up that unique signature is difficult to do efficiently with mere words. But while watching this movie, one can’t shake the feeling they’re witnessing something special – especially in the face of all else on offer in the film industry today. Something that perhaps requires a little patience to connect with, but which is guaranteed to win at least a part of your heart if not your mind. Amirpour’s film does not worry itself too much with narrative; instead focusing on mood, atmosphere, memorable characters and raw emotion.
As a visual experience it is rich, in a rudimentary and refreshingly ‘primal’ way. The lack of colour suits the mood; this is not a film that needs to be bright in order to catch your undivided attention. It wears its heart on its sleeve; the ‘smoke and mirrors’ often offered by Hollywood stripped away here to reveal what could almost be considered an anti-narrative, for which the most important details are frequently left unsaid.
What isn’t said is left to be communicated through body language. The film’s two main actors, Sheila Vand as ‘the girl’ and Arash Marandi as the young man with whom she forms an unlikely connection, both do a fantastic job with ambiguous characters.
Vand plays a character who is at times methodical and dangerous, yet at times naive and innocent. Her actions frequently shock (as you may not initially see them coming) but her motivations, once we have quickly worked out what they are, have a sympathetic quality. This film does have a moral compass; the violence it shows is not gratuitous, Vand’s victims are not undeserving of their fate, and its feminist theme is undeniable.
Though ultimately, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s strongest quality is the element of fun running through it from beginning to end. It is a mix of multiple genres, probably best described as a static road movie built on the foundation of horror, with a trimming of comedy, wrapped in satire, complemented by a flavouring of romance that emerges out of tragedy. Oh, and its main character is a vampire with a curious taste in music.
If any of those traits sound like your kind of thing, you’ll certainly find something here to enjoy.
9 / 10