'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' Review: Love in Black and White
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night might be the best horror film from 2014, and that's in contention with a film that has garnered nothing but mainstream praise: The Babadook. While I found the latter to be a cheap Exorcist clone that didn't do anything new with the genre, Girl is a unique film that is unlike any horror film I've seen in a long time. It's a somber, reflective, and at times horrifying look at addiction and being an outcast. It's also completely in Iranian and is the directorial debut of Ana Lily Amirpour.
The film follows Arash (Arash Marandi), a hard-working Iranian in the Bad City, who has to contend with his heroin-addicted father, his father's dealer, and a mysterious Girl in a black cloak played by Sheila Vand. The Girl is a vampire, stalking the destitute and evil of the Bad City and taking their life force for her own. The plot of the film is minimal, which is in line with the rest of the film's minimalist feel. Arash's contention with his father and relationship with the Girl make up the majority of the film's 101 minute running time, but the film never drags or feels without purpose. It's a testament to Amirpour's carefully crafted script that she is able to coax emotion and true feeling without it feeling over-indulgent or too self-aware.
That's not to say Amirpour doesn't take care to construct some truly astounding shots, especially those that involve the Girl walking in the dead of night. The use of monochrome sometimes feels like a gimmick when used poorly, but in Girl it highlights the severity and loneliness of the Bad City. The Girl's vampire The blacks feel emptier and more haunting, while the light feels overwhelming and uncomfortable. The world in which Arash and the Girl inhabit is bleak and foreboding, but they are able to bring light to one another's world, even just for a fleeting moment. When they are together, the use of lighting is brighter than when the Girl roams alone at night, her black cloak a stark contrast against even the faintest glimmer of light in the night.
With Amirpour's direction and shot construction, it allows Vand and Marandi's relationship to come to fruition and shine through the well-written dialogue. There is tension between the two when they initially meet as the Girl is apprehensive to Arash's motives, which is best scene in the film. Since the Girl had previously been shown murdering others, the stakes in the scene are high as one might believe that Arash will be her next victim, but he shows her compassion. That compassion is what saves him, and creates the bedrock for their eventual relationship. That scene is the perfect microcosm of the film and, under the street lights of the Bad City, is where the unconventional relationship between the two begins. It plays on the common horror tropes but in a way that reflects a seasoned director/screenwriter.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night caught me off guard in the best way. I had no expectations going into the film and I was rewarded with one of the best horror films of the last ten years. It subverts every expectation along with putting a unique spin on the vampire story. I am fully on board with whatever Amirpour is working on next, which seems to be a cannibal love story featuring Jason Momoa, of which I am totally on board. I can't wait to see her next film, but this one is absolutely a must watch for a fan of horror but also film as a whole.
Final Say: Watch It