“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” is one of those art house films that movie lovers speak of with awe, as they do of Michelangelo Antonioni’s movies in the 1960s or Jim Jarmusch's in the 1980s. It's a discovery, and a dare. You just HAVE to see this. You won't believe it.
It takes several lines to describe it. It's a vampire movie, shot in black-and-white widescreen, but it's quite unlike most vampire movies.
It's also an Iranian movie, spoken in Persian (with English subtitles), but directed by English-speaker Ana Lily Amirpour, who lives in the U.S.
Iran produces many beautiful and soulful movies, yet its strict censorship never would have allowed anything in this movie to see the light of day.
“A Girl” also has been described as a Western, though not a traditional one. No one wears cowboy hats or boots or rides horses, but they live in a lawless town called Bad City.
The story begins with handsome Arash (Arash Marandi), who wears a tight, white T-shirt and drives a 1957 Thunderbird. His father (Marshall Manesh) is a heroin addict and deeply in debt, so as payment, pimp/drug dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) takes the car.
When Arash attempts to get it back, he encounters a mysterious girl (Sheila Vand) and finds Saeed dead. Along with his car, Arash also grabs a suitcase full of cash and drugs.
After a Halloween party, and dressed as Dracula, Arash is high and lost when he meets the girl again. She wears her long black hijab like a count's cape, and glides spookily along the city streets on a stolen skateboard.
Though the handful of characters are all interconnected in various ways, director Amirpour rarely uses dialogue to provide information or further the plot. A pair of earrings and a cat's eyes are more suggestive.
Scenes often feel disconnected from the narrative, as if they were simply floating. The movie moves to its own rhythm, existential but clever, bold but playful.
Some sequences are dreamy or spooky or funny – sometimes all at once – as when the vampire girl torments a potential victim by mirroring his movements.
Pop music (mosty Iranian) whiles away scenes as characters regard their situations. Sometimes they simply stop and listen; entire songs flow by while the camera gazes on.
In short, Amirpour creates cinematic spaces for us to think, feel or just be She is a most promising young filmmaker. Keep an eye out for her. She will never walk home alone again.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Three and a half stars
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh
Written and directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes