When I went to Sundance in 2014 with a class in film school, I saw some really incredible films like Whiplash, Life After Beth, Infinitely Polar Bear, and a lot more but there’s only so many hours in the day and even though I had seen A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night on the program lineup and it sounded interesting there just wasn’t enough time to be able to catch a show back then. Since then, I’ve wanted to watch this movie and, in the four years since it’s been around, I never made the time until now.
This is a vampire film like none I have ever seen, including the ones I’ve already watched this month. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, this film is set in the fictional Iranian city appropriately titled, Bad City Hidden amongst the crime and unaware humans, is a very lonely vampire. Amirpour proudly claims it’s the first Iranian Vampire Western ever filmed and you certainly can’t argue with that. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a brilliant cross-section of some very varied genres like western films, horror films, comic books, and of course some 1950s films like Rebel Without a Cause.
There’s really a lot to love about this film. Some people might complain it moves a little too slow and the mix of all the genres can create a somewhat loose story but all of it combined creates a really incredible experience. The cinematography is flawless. The shots are so beautifully composed and styled to help give the film is unique looks. The shadows play to its horror roots but the style feels very spaghetti western especially with its long shots. While we were watching, Natalie, my partner in crime on this month’s endeavor, pointed out the gray tones of the film also play to its thematic position on navigating the gray areas.
The feminist themes of this film are particularly interesting especially in relation to Muslim women. The Girl (Sheila Vand) has this beautiful silent film face that’s so expressive. Her adorable striped shirt and her skateboard are all the makings of a modern hipster but her chador hijab she dons like a superhero’s cape hearkens back to classic ideas of Muslim women. The intriguing title also creates a sense of danger for the woman who dares to walk alone at night in the modern world but instead of fearing for her life, The Girl is like an avenging angel. She doesn’t stop there though. There’s a moment in the film where she stops a street urchin (Milad Eghbali) and asks if he’s a good boy. She threatens him, of course, since she’s our avenging vampire, that she’ll always be watching and it would be easy to kill should he ever stop being a good boy. While that level of violence is a bit extreme it does call to attention the fact we should not be teaching women to be afraid of walking home alone at night but that we should teach men not to prey upon women.
Really, every element of this film works together to create something utterly beautiful that’s far more romantic than it is thrilling. The actors and these characters are incredible and they’re worth a watch for them alone. Ana Lily Amirpour came out of the gate so strongly with this as her feature film directorial debut. I’ll be excited to see what she brings next as a writer/director and eagerly awaiting what her brilliant eye can bring to the screen.