A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2015)
Starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò, Dominic Rains, Rome Shadanloo, Milad Eghbali, Reza Sixo Safai, Pej Vahdat and Ana Lily Amirpour.
Screenplay by Ana Lily Amirpour.
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.
Distributed by Kino Lorber. 95 minutes. Not Rated.
Vampire films are so rampant that it is always heartening to see a film which finds interesting new wrinkles in such an overdone genre.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night takes place in an Iranian town that is so hellish and full of evil that no one really even notices that they have a vampire on the loose. Filmed in moody black and white, the world of the film is full of junkies, thieves, losers, squalor and death. (There is even a pit in the middle of town where corpses are regularly dumped.) The poor people in town are rocked by drugs and crime. The rich try to stay cloistered in their own alcoves, occasionally descending into town to slum it and score some drugs.
Compared to life like this, a vampire seems like a walk in the park.
Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour has put together a sparse, gorgeous, moody film with the bleak power of early David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch.
The vampire (Sheila Vand) in question is not some malicious force of evil. She is more like a quiet hipster girl, obsessed with fashion and pop music (she has posters of Madonna and Michael Jackson in her small apartment and is constantly listening to records at home) and made to be quiet by her peculiar circumstance. She walks (or uses a stolen skateboard) through town, nearly invisible in her traditional garb – which she accessorizes with a stylish French sailor top. (The film often plays amusingly off the idea that chador can be used much like a vampire’s cape.) She observes and follows the townspeople, but not always interacting with them.
Unlike most film bloodsuckers, this vampiress seems to have an odd sense justice which guides her. The people she kills tend to be users and abhorrent people. She silently observes for a period until she is sure they are deserving of death. Observation is big here, there is also a cat who observes all of the action, and the film suggests that the vampire and the cat may have some kind of connection.
She tends to protect other people who may be doing bad things but for the right reasons – like an aging prostitute trying to escape her bleak world and getting constantly mistreated because of her desperation. The vampire even uses her fearfulness to scare a young street urchin straight, forcing him to promise her that he will always be a good boy, and she will be watching over him if he ever breaks that vow.
The main person who she observes is Arash (Arash Marandi). Arash is a local guy who has been trying to avoid the darkness of his hometown and has only one thing he truly loves, a vintage Ford Thunderbird that he has spent all his money rebuilding. His dad is a junkie (played by Marshall Manesh, a long way from his best-known role as Rahjit, the good-natured chauffeur on How I Met Your Mother). The father owes a ton of money to local gangster Dominic Rains, who provides drugs, whores and death to the town. He takes Arash’s car as payment for his dad’s huge debt.
Through a twist of fate, Arash and the girl meet and become friends (in a queasy if slightly obvious twist, he meets her on Halloween night, dressed as Dracula). However, they both have their secrets and problems, can they escape together and find some kind of normalcy, perhaps even love?
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night pulls off the not unimpressive feat of making an Iranian film in the United States. Despite the fact that all the action takes place in an imaginary Iranian town called Bad City and all of the dialogue is Farsi with subtitles, it was actually filmed in Los Angeles.
It’s a brooding and beautiful film, quite a coup for a first time director. It will be interesting to see where she takes us next.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2015 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 27, 2015.