Film & TV

Film Review – A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Bad City. A place so appropriately named it must only house dealers, prostitutes and those too poor to escape. The law enforcement obviously did a long time ago, ’cause there’s a ruddy huge ditch full of steadily increasing corpses just on your left as you drive in. Nobody’s cleaning that up.

Our hero’s fatally sick father owes a lot of money to the City’s miserable excuse at a drug lord (who also seems to be a member of a Die Antwoord tribute band). He takes the hero’s prized car. Vengeance must be had. Lots of dusty shots of a barren waste town, Morricone-homaging brass and the occasional bout of Peckinpah-indebted violence point to A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night as a promising neo-western. Only its black and white. That’s okay, there’s been a few of those over the years. Dead Man anyone? Oh and there’s a vampire. There’s that too.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Yes, Iran’s first vampire-western. distributed by Vice (and produced by Elijah Wood, who has become an unexpected poster boy for arty genre fare). Though it couldn’t sound more ridiculous, A Girl is one of the more interesting films to hit the world platform in a long while, and a standout of genre cinema in a year that’s fast becoming a banner year for it (It Follows, The Duke of Burdgundy, Mad Max even). And it definitely is a genre film, and needs to be understood on those terms. Carefully and deliberately pinpointing specific genre tropes from both horrors – sumptuous chiaroscuro lighting reminiscent of the expressionist early days of cinema – and westerns (all of the instances I cited), A Girl manages to be more than a synthetic hybrid through its lack of cackhanded “see what we’re doing here’ sign-posting. It’s not a parody. It’s not a homage, like a lot of the genre cinema this year has been. It’s its own entry into the cinematic canon.


While A Girl is greatly stylish (just look at those stills!), such aesthetic choices often run the risk of becoming ‘style-over-substance’, as the pointless cliche goes. Here however the style is the substance, and not in some cocky self-fellating Tarantino manner. The terse, fatalistic, perfectly composed atmosphere, that gorgeous aesthetic, the relentless but measured pacing, all take precedence over the simple but carefully sketched narrative of a boy and a vampire girl in an Iranian shithole town. Their relationship is one of relatively few words, as is the film entire, but thanks to a balance of performance, image and soundtrack (which is a revelation in itself, a winning combo of Amélie-esque accordion and indie rock) it never feels ill fleshed out. Considering film is a visual – and aural – medium, there often seems to be a dearth of reliance of this kind of media interplay, even when just telling stories.

a girl 2

Speaking of Tarantino, it is the sort of film that could have easily chosen to go full-grindhouse if it wished, cranking up the exploitation factor and adding a bit of superfluous grain, and been a perfectly solid vamp-rom-western-thriller. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night chose the wiser path, and is all the fascinating and bewitching for it.


Tom Watchorn

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