To my intense shame, I’m always a little bit behind when it comes to international films. I typically discover them a year or two (or three) after they’ve debuted, and then it’s usually another 4-6 months before I actually watch them because I don’t have my life together. I refuse to accept that I’m alone in this struggle, and have since decided that there are probably other people in the same boat. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to introduce you to Ana Lily Amirpour’s dreamy gem A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
First and foremost, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is beautiful. It’s color graded with a fairly high contrast black and white, and while some people find highly stylized films to be off-putting, I have a soft spot for them. I love a film that makes a visual statement and offers up something to break up the monotony. The movie is smattered with some beautiful wide shots of the landscape, and I applaud any film that can make oil refineries look picturesque.
The story follows a young Iranian man named Arash as he contends with his heroin-addicted father and has a series of encounters with a girl who gives off strong “when your parents said don’t talk to strangers, they were probably talking about me” vibes. It’s billed as the first Iranian vampire western, and while that string of words might sound incongruous I can assure you the film is anything but.
The actors speak Persian, but the film has English subtitles. Honestly, the dialogue is pretty minimal so if subtitles are a no-go for you then you’d probably still enjoy the film with them turned off. The musical choices feature prominently throughout the film, and while I have no earthly idea what was said in most of the songs it doesn’t stop me from digging them. I wouldn’t have minded more dialogue, but its absence didn’t leave me wanting.
I would categorize the movie as an intriguing, easy watch. Not much happens, but you don’t really realize it until someone asks you to sum up the story. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night isn’t a movie that reaches out and grabs you. It doesn’t leave you breathless or triumphant at the end, doesn’t shock you with a third act twist or fill an hour and a half with suspenseful music and jump-scenes that make your blood pressure rise. No, this movie is quiet in the best possible way. It just kind of pulls you in, lazy and hypnotic. I was thoroughly entertained, and there’s currently a nine in ten chance I’ll watch it again.
I think what really sealed the deal on this film for me was the way it veered from and repurposed clichés. I mean, it’s a vampire film, so my initial knee-jerk reaction was to give it wide berth. I think most of us are suffering from supernatural fatigue right now. It feels like the last ten years or so have absolutely assaulted film and television with cringe-inducing vampire and werewolf flicks. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night avoids all the romanticized tropes that have come to haunt the genre as of late, and I appreciate the holy Hades out of that.
Action and suspense films have been my bread and butter for ages now, but I’ve been branching further and further out into other genres lately. As this film proves, it’s been a good move. Some of the best movies aren’t in English, and if anyone asks for proof I’m going to hold this little gem up as exhibit A.