DIR/WRI: Ana Lily Amirpour • PRO: Ana Lily Amirpour, Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah DOP: Lyle Vincent • ED: Alex O’Flinn • DES: Sergio De La Vega • CAST: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh
Filmed in stylish black and white, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night follows a variety of inhabitants in the immoral and lonely town of Bad City. Sheila Vand plays The Girl, a young female vampire who preys on the men of the town, standing out from the desolate backdrop in her long, flowing veil as she stalks a number of city dwellers. Another character who lives in the town is Arash (Arash Marandi), an Iranian James Dean-wannabe who is ashamed of his druggie father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh), and is soon forced by his father’s pusher, Saeed (Dominic Rains), to pay off Hossein’s debts with his cherished T-bird car. One night, The Girl and Arash cross paths and form a bond which proves to have life-changing consequences for both of them.
With the self-proclaimed tagline ‘The first Iranian Vampire Western’, it is safe to say that this is a break from the territory of previous Iranian films that have broken through to the western world. With the work of Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us), Jafar Panahi (The Mirror, The Circle, Offside), Asghar Farhadi (Academy Award winning A Separation) and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) receiving critical acclaim and numerous accolades in the highly competitive global film industry, it is encouraging to see talent continuing to emerge from the country, particularly in the young, female voice that distinguishes Ana Lily Amirpour. A successful short filmmaker, Amirpour both wrote and directed A Girl Walks Home, which marks her feature debut. The film has already generated significant anticipation following its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and has received a number of award wins.
Every shot in the film is highly contemplative and memorable. The character of The Girl is striking in her long veil, which blows behind her ghost-like when she finds a skateboard and uses it to skate around the city. Her leggings and black and white striped top add a sense of youthfulness and innocence to her character. With characters names including ‘The Girl’, ‘The Junkie’, ‘The Princess’, ‘The Prostitute’ and ‘The Pimp’, the film knowingly uses types and plays around with narrative expectations to make the plot engrossing. The film has fun with its American references – to music videos, Frank Millerisms, Hollywood iconography and Tarantino-esque style – and its generic self-consciousness. The general sense of playfulness is probably the most important element that works to the film’s advantage.
The core relationship of the film between The Girl and Arash is lovingly filmed, with both Sheila Vand and Arash Marandi proving to be charming leads. Another stand-out is Dominic Rains, who makes his character Saeed, or ‘The Pimp’, another pleasure to watch. There are occasional pacing problems with the film and there are seeds sown into the plot that end up being neglected. Overall, though, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night provides an entertaining and smart alternative to the run-of-the-mill offerings from the big budget American studios.
15A (See IFCO for details)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is released 22nd May 2015