A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour’s eccentric and minimalist vampire thriller A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has many of the textbook appeals that demand sophisticated and sometimes pretentious audiences. In much of the film, its demand to be taken seriously is warranted as A Girl delivers many fine moments of dialogue, storytelling, and immensely beautiful photography. The film’s sole problem is that there are far too many moments all together.
A Girl follows two stories. One is a beautiful Persian boy named Arash (played by Arash Marandi) who drives a beautiful car but proves he values the relationship between hard work and play by working more than 2,000 days to pay for an immensely beautiful Thunderbird. His father is an opium user who’s addiction is fed by a local drug pushing punk tattooed and coiffed to the point of extreme caricature. His father’s expensive habit results in this drug lord repossessing Arash’s Thunderbird.
The second story follows The Girl, a chador-wearing vampire obsessed with popular music (her lair is more of a basement apartment decorated with pop music references including Margaret Atwood). Her attire (a fishing shirt under her chador) and environment suggest that time for her stopped in the 80s. The Girl is the sole impetus for action in the film and the sudden flashes of violence, being so few and far between, bring an intensity to the atmosphere that is starkly observed. Despite the slow moving story, the long shots of dialogue-less moments, there is some true horror in this story such as the moment The Girl bites off the finger of the drug dealer, and uses the severed end to apply blood to his lips like a tube of lipstick.
It is necessary to note that all the characters in this story are Persian-speaking despite the obvious small town America locale. The result of this effect is startling and, in my case, unanticipated despite much hype surrounding this aspect of the film. For me, it was initially distracting. But as the film ran longer and longer, the energy required to sustain frustration, or finding a resolution was required just to make it through to the end. Perhaps this was the wrong way to approach a film, but suspending my disbelief needs to be an easy task when watching a vampire movie (see Jim Jarmusch’s recent experiment with vampires for a better example).
The two stories eventually merge through events that should produce (at least in characters more true to life), anger, violence, sadness, or anything really than the subdued results observed. Indeed, substance has certainly been sacrificed in the name of style in A Girl; specifically: character development. Personally, this choice is usually one I enjoy. Where A Girl falters is really its length. Amirpour cannot sustain the beautiful black and white photography (truly remarkable for the film’s obviously tiny budget) and slow moving plot. Manohla Dargis pinned down these sentiments exactly in her review when she said, “…if you don’t mind narrative repetition and passages in which nothing much happens, beyond pretty people staring at other pretty people, you may not mind that she has trouble filling this overlong movie, which comes in at 107 minutes, when 70 would have done nicely.”
There is much to look at and much to consider with this film. While it fails to reach the full heights of its lofty ambitions, it is a genuinely interesting experiment.