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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)


This review is part of a series: 31 Days of Horror Directed by Women.
Straight up, you know this movie's gonna go hard based on that title alone. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a moody love story about a woman who contains multitudes. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, the film is quiet and atmospheric, yet it hums with dark, feminine energy. Shot in black and white, with minimal dialogue that's contrasted by brief but meaningful musical interludes, Amirpour's first feature is driven by compelling performances from its two leads. We meet Arash first: a young man walking the mostly deserted streets of a desolate Iranian town called Bad City. He travels several blocks, picks up a cat, and takes it home with him in his fancy car. Just before he drives off, however, he tells an inquisitive boy he meets that he worked for 2,196 days in order to afford such a nice car.

It's not a stretch to assume that a place named Bad City is...well, not that great. Arash works as a handyman for a rich family, supporting himself and his smack-addicted father. He doesn't appear to have much of a social life outside of his new cat friend, and the only person his father associates with is local drug dealer-slash-pimp, Shaydah. Amirpour lays this groundwork in the most minimal way possible: we travel alongside each character for extended periods of time, feeling very different, specific energies from each isolated walk. The film's minimal dialogue is apparently due to the fact that Amirpour has 30% hearing loss, but the silence only serves to emphasize the film's larger theme of loneliness. We leave Arash's deliberate movements for a bit and latch onto the more frenetic energy of Shaydah. His Adidas tracksuit and face tattoo are a nice shorthand for 'scumbag', and things get uncomfortable quickly as we watch how he treats one of the girls he's pimping. But we're not the only ones watching.

I want to describe this film as vengeful and desirous, but perhaps those are words best reserved for its other protagonist, The Girl. The Girl wears a chador, and we only ever see her skulking mysteriously around Bad City's streets alone, at night. If I passed a guy like Shaydah while walking home alone, I'd probably be a little nervous. But when The Girl, a black spectre in the darkness, passes by Shaydah one night, it's him who I am nervous for. Well, nervous isn't the right word. It's more like...excitement. I'm excited because based on the aforementioned dark, feminine energy of this movie, I just know this dick's gonna get his. In true scumbag form, Shaydah takes a hard drag on his cigarette and invites The Girl back to his apartment for some fun. A few lines of coke and a little impromptu dance later, The Girl reveals herself to be both vengeful and desirous.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is really cool. Cool like something you'd tell your friends about to impress them, and cool in its approach to the subject matter. The movie doesn't really let you in on the fact that it's a love story until several characters are rolling on Molly and we're hopelessly tangled up in both protagonist's messy lives. The Girl is lonely; isolated in an unspeakable darkness. Arash fits the brooding, lone wolf stereotype. The downward spiral of his home life threatens to pull him toward oblivion. It's easy to see why these two are drawn to each other, even in the face of tragedy. Their coming together is as tender as it is isolated. Like moths to a black flame, they creep toward each other, desperate to be seen—truly seen—in any light at all. By the time the film concludes, you're not sure if you've just watched something truly horrifying, or hopeful. Its beauty lies somewhere in between.