Living in the poverty- and crime-infested Iranian town of Bad City, Arash is struggling to make ends meet. His father is a drug addict and he’s under the thumb of the local pimp. Thing start to change, however, when the pimp is killed by a young woman. She’s beautiful. She wears a hijab. She roams around on a skateboard. And she’s a vampire.
Cool is probably the best way to describe A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the new film from Ana Lily Amirpour. It oozes of cool. The music, the costumes and the dialogue all contribute to it – the world might feel bleak, but it looks ethereal and aesthetically beautiful. The titular Girl embodies all of this – her short black hair, mascara-clad eyes and striped shirt make it seem like she’s been plucked out of a 1960s French New Wave film.
But the reason this film works, above everything else, is that it isn’t all style. There is so much substance in her character, and every other one in the film. She reveals very little about herself, but we learn so much just from the way she treats the people she follows. The Girl is a great cinematic anti-hero too, another one to add to the growing list of strong female characters. A particularly memorable scene involving a young boy tells us all we need to know about her – she isn’t here to make friends.
The film has been compared to old school spaghetti westerns, but it’s the love story that I’m drawn to the most. Arash is a wonderfully-crafted character, and we believe in their bizarre but tender connection. It’s a relationship fraught with ambiguities, as the climax suggests, but fiercely loyal.
At times, A Girl Walks Home Alone… suffers from trying too hard to be cool; especially in it’s depiction of sex. However, it manages to tow the line just well enough to stay engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s an Iranian production (it’s actually American), but it’s very refreshing to see the country portrayed in this original way. Here’s hoping that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night doesn’t slip under the radar, as it’s intelligent, beautiful and very, very cool.