“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” is a twist on the boy-meets-girl story — and the girl’s a vampire. It’s writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature-length film, and whatta debut.
The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalks and preys upon pimps, junkies and hookers. She’s got a sick music collection and wears a hijab that flies through the air while she skateboards.
Enter Arash (Arash Marandi) and his heroin-addicted dad. Arash makes ends meet gardening for a rich family. He’s a good kid with a James Dean flair. Arash crosses paths with The Girl the night he tries to pay off a drug dealer — and some mild sparks fly. But the real connection comes later and includes Ecstasy, a light post and a Dracula cape.
“A Girl Walks Home At Night” plays on light and dark, good and evil through humor, black-and-white cinematography through a cast of misfits.
The Girl is selective in her hunt. She buys makeup to reel in the first kill, she paints on her game face, and her food choice felt justified. In another scene, she toys with an unsuspecting victim, and that throwdown left this reviewer ambivalent.
Director Amirpour paints each character with complexity. After days of stalking prostitute Atti (Mozhan Marnò), Atti asks what The Girl sees.
She replies: “You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting.” The camera bounces between Atti’s sad reflection in a mirror and The Girl’s longing face. The pro and the vamp connect. This film is full of sparks of humanity in unlikely places — including in the undead.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” parallels Sweden’s “Let the Right One In,” but this is more cast-driven and playful. But like “Let the Right One In,” the director uses the setting to evoke emotion. Here, black-and-white visuals help ham up focused isolation. And the superb music paints this film in color. Props on the camera composition, visual and sound editing — all hinting at David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino inspirations.
Performances are on par. Actress Vand as The Girl is luminous in black and white. She exhibits this character’s greatest depth with her eyes, facial expressions and tones of voice. Arash Marandi’s adorable with wide eyes and a chiseled chin. Though here, he uses his physicality to express innocence and loneliness. In a scene when his father is detoxing, he brings the despair and the conflict.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” touches some tough themes, but director Amirpour dresses it as a comic book-ish spaghetti western that’ll make you laugh, freak out and, above all, empathize with those who feel powerless over their conditions — be that a junkie, a prostitute or a vampire.
This movie’s the anti-blockbuster: It has subtitles, it’s in black and white, and watch it immediately.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”
Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh
Director/screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour
Rating: NR (minimal language, some adult themes and violence)
Available: Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix Instant, VUDU