Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. Starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Mozhan Marnò and Dominic Rains.
THE PLOT: In the Iranian town of Bad City, the lonely, cruel and desperate townspeople are unaware that there is a vampire in their midst. Clad in a hijab and riding a skateboard, The Girl (Shiela Vand) stalks the residents and exists in solitude, until she meets the lonesome Arash (Arash Marandi).
THE VERDICT: Perhaps not surprisingly, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is the first vampire Western to come out of Iran, what may surprise viewers, however, is how dark, beautiful and atmospheric this film is, and how universal the story actually is. Although the film is set in Iran, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT could actually be set anywhere in the world, and such is the film’s wonderful charm.
Sheila Vand is mesmerising in the lead role; her curious eyes often seem to fill the screen and although she is not actually the central character in the film, and we learn little about her, she hovers over the whole affair like a ghoul. Arash Mirandi swings between patient and kind, and cruel and opportunistic in the film, but audience sympathy lies with his character, as he is the most innocent and open of the characters. The rest of the cast is made up of Marshall Manesh as Arash’s father Hossein, Mozhan Marnó as Atti and Dominic Rains as Saeed.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s screenplay is one that is not weighed down by dialogue and exposition. Instead, the audience is invited to go on this highly stylised but engaging journey with the characters, as their town’s influence changes due to the presence of one person. Beautifully shot in black and white, the film drips with rich atmosphere and, while there are gory and violent scenes, these are turned beautiful through the black and white cinematography.
As director Amirpour fills the film with tension and a dark atmosphere, while allowing The Girl to take moments of stillness and display odd, twisted kindness to the people she deems worthy of her protection. The film is also an awkward ‘teen’ romance, and the relationship between The Girl and Arash is gentle and rather sweet, making this the film that Twilight wishes it could have been. That said, there are moments when the film’s pacing drags its heels, meaning the still atmosphere begins to stagnate.
In all, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT is a wonderfully dark, twisted and romantic tale with a killer soundtrack and oodles of style. The cinematography and abandoned feel of the town heighten the whole affair, but some dodgy pacing means the film suffers from time to time.
Review by Brogen Hayes

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0Dark, twisted & romantic
  • filmbuff2011

    Here’s something different – make that very different: the first Iranian skateboarding vampire western! It’s also one of the year’s coolest and most original films, unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry. In the not-particularly populated Bad City, people live out their daily humdrum lives, unaware of something apparently evil near them. One such person is Arash (Arash Marandi), whose car is stolen by a thug. The thug ends up dead though, at the hands, or rather teeth, of The Girl (Sheila Vand). She’s a lonely vampire who stalks the desolate streets at night. When she comes across Arash, she doesn’t kill him and they take a liking to each other. The Girl is not truly evil – she’s just made out to be that way. After all, she can’t be evil if she likes Debbie Harry. She’s actually on the streets to protect women from predatory men… The debut feature from Iranian-American Ana Lily Amirpour (look fast for her as ‘Skeleton Partygirl’) is unlike anything else you’ll see this year. She mixes various genres, such as the traditional vampire horror, spaghetti western, American road movie and 70s and 80s-style female revenge thrillers. Given that heady mix, there’s potential for it to become gloopy and unfocused. In fact, the opposite occurs – it gels together perfectly, aided by the fact that it feels more American than it should. It was actually shot in California, doubling for Iran, so there are no censorship restrictions. That helps make it more accessible, given that Iranian films can be a bit obscure at times. Shooting in crisp and entirely appropriate black-and-white, Amirpour makes a strong visual statement. The sight of The Girl skateboarding down a street, traditional Iranian garb flowing like a cape, is effortlessly cool. It’s a little slow in spots, but not by much. There’s always something interesting just around that street corner. Amirpour’s script is funny and droll by turns, as if Wes Anderson and Noam Baumbach had some input into it. Actually, Elijah Wood (no stranger to offbeat roles recently), had some input into it as an Executive Producer. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is destined for late night cult status – which means that you should race to the cinema to see it straight away. ****

  • Randy

    The film opts for style over substance and it really excels at being so very different from what’s on the screen today – part-western, part-coming-of-age-skateboarding movie, part vampire-film, it was one of the best offerings at the JDIFF.