Film Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

It was a combo of words which basically required me to go: female director, Iranian, vampire, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT…a powerful phrase in itself. Something I’ve done. Something I’ve been scared to do.

The film is black-and-white, filmed in California and set in the Iranian town of Bad City—BadBad. On the nose, but it’s also not a big deal to the plot. This is a no-place, a Western town-in-trouble. It’s not loudly in trouble, its trouble is malaise…and a mysterious trench where bodies just keep ending up.

The film isn’t about vampirism or about some great story. It’s about loneliness. It’s about characters. It’s about mood. The main characters are:

  • The Boy — a gardener who works at the one rich mansion in town, knows exactly how many hours of labor went into his beautiful car, and supports his drug-addicted father.
  • The Old Man — addicted to various drugs, in debt to the local dealer/pimp, probably on both fronts.
  • The Worn-Down Woman — a sex-worker who knows she’s aging out of her job.
  • The Cat — a cat. It’s very, very fluffy.
  • The Girl — who wears a chador over her hippie-beatnik clothes as a combo of societal requirement and eerie callback. She walks home alone. After dark.

When the Girl comes into their lives, ridding them of the dealer/pimp, she sets off the possibilities of this scenario. What would the boy be like if he got ahold of the man’s drug cache and money? What would the old man be like if his son stopped supporting him? Would the worn-down woman be able to do any better for herself without her pimp in the picture?

As plot goes, that’s about it. The Girl sets off chain reactions which spark what action there is in the film. Keep your expectations set on “foreign film,” particularly “European film” and it’ll feel right.

Visually, the film is stunning. I came to this backward but I was not surprised at all to see that it was based on a comic book. It had very much that feel, in the shots, in the lighting, in the costuming. In particular, the use of chador was magnificent. The Girl could stand in the street, staring, giving every indication of being a vampire, wearing a what looked like a black cloak, and yet in Iran this is also exactly what she should have been wearing. The contrast of her cute outfit in her art-and-music-themed apartment jarred.

I appreciated the use of The Girl’s makeup. It wasn’t much, eyes and lips, but it showed up even in the black and white and created a difference between the personas she was enacting—whether she was Hunter or Girl.

I wish I could say more about the music. I don’t know enough about music for it to have struck me at the time, but it seemed to carry themes that a music-lover would appreciate.

I’m not sure what else to say. It left deep visual and scene impressions on my brain. It was a bit bizarre, a bit whimsical, a bit depressing. There were deeply satisfying moments, like the murder of the pimp (which is early and is implied in the trailers so I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler). There’s almost something lonely or pitiful in him, something desperate for approval. But you cheer a bit on the inside when she [redacteds] his [redacted] and [does redacted with it] (not what you’re thinking if you haven’t seen it). You have never enjoyed a man being so wrong about a woman’s intentions as he is.

If the combos of words in my first paragraph make your ears perk up the way they did mine, you’ll probably enjoy it.

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