A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night billed itself as the “first Iranian vampire Western.” It oversells itself as a Western, and, frankly, as Iranian. While the movie’s setting is, indeed, in Iran, and the film is in Persian, the film was shot in Southern California, made by the descendants of native Iranians. While this doesn’t have anything to do with the final quality of the film, it does puncture the mystique surrounding the film. However, if you set that aside, you can ask yourself other questions about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Questions such as, “Did we need a Jim Jarmusch vampire movie in a world where we have one made by the actual Jarmusch?”
Not necessarily, but that’s not to say there isn’t value in Ana Lily Amirpour’s directorial debut. It has a lot of the trappings of an artsy first film. It meanders at times, it can feel a bit too precious in its choices, and the ending is not satisfactory. One character in the movie gets an extended scene by themselves, but they don’t actually play into the plot of the movie in the slightest. These are not minor quibbles, but they don’t rob the film of its quality entirely.
The movie generally focuses on two characters. There’s Arash, a gentleman living in the rundown Bad City, dealing with money problems and a junkie father. Then, there is The Girl, played wonderfully by Sheila Vand, who is a vampire. She also likes a lot of American pop music, which is a detail that could go awry in the wrong hands, but does not here. They cross paths eventually, taking both of their lives in different directions.
The film is in black-and-white, and shot well, and it gives the bleak dystopia of Bad City an interesting atmosphere. While there is something wonderful about a lady vampire skateboarding, the director seems more concerned with images and moments like this than actually piecing together a story. Nevertheless, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is evocative and intriguing, and worth checking out, even if you aren’t necessarily interested in vampire movies. If you are interested in plot details over atmosphere, though, you may find yourself disappointed. There are lessons to be taken from this film for Amirpour, and hopefully she puts them to work on her next outing. There is definitely reason to be interested in whatever she has in mind.