Omar: 4.0 out of 5

Hello everyone! I apologize for the extended absence but I’ve been quite busy lately relocating for the start of law school. The move along with the taxing orientation week and reading assignments left me very little time to keep up with my reviews. But enough excuses! I’m back and better than ever, time to dive into A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

Pretty cool poster or title screen or whatever its called right? Well I personally think so, it sets the tone for what amounts to a very stylish vampire flick. AGWHAAN (quite the mouthful) is the horror-romance directorial debut of Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour. Not only did she direct the movie, she wrote it as well. This movie is pretty badass in a lot of ways not explicitly related to it’s content. First of all, it is directed by an Iranian-American Woman which places it in a rare category already. Second of all, it came with the description of being “The first Iranian vampire Western” which makes it even more cool. Hype and reputation can only get you so far though, at some point the movie has to speak for itself.

The quick summary of this movie is that it revolves around a small Iranian town and the life of a young man going about his daily life, a stealthy female vampire who stalks her prey, and their eventual interactions with one another. It must sound to you that there is more to the story than I’m describing but that’s pretty much the gist of it. My main gripe with the film is that in the end it was sort of uneventful. Nothing big ever really happened, this movie reminded me a lot of Jim Jarmush’s Mystery Train (1989) in that regard. The story is very minimalist and doesn’t have a problem lingering on certain scenes where nothing substantial happens. After reflecting on it for some time, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be a refreshing break from typical storytelling formulas but I personally like a little more meat on my stories.

But let me digress, there is plenty this movie does extremely well that elevate it beyond the plot. For starters, I loved the black and white style they went with in this film. Liz quoted me in her review as saying the movie seemed “very crisp” and I stand by that. Given that almost every modern movie is filmed in color, we don’t get too many new black and white movies which means the visuals I have to compare to are typically more grainy and dated. This movie reminded me an awful lot of the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) in that it was a black and white film that was very sharp and clear. Another thing I loved about this movie was the atmosphere, and this is another thing that was greatly helped by the black and white style. The movie was very eerie and almost surreal being that it takes place in a desolate city where we’re often watching a vampire stalk her prey.

While the minimalist style meant the story didn’t do too much, it did open up the possibility for many other cool things that I greatly enjoyed. For example, instead of having to fill moments with dialogue and action, we’re treated to extended moments of aesthetically pleasing scenes like the stalking scenes, the Halloween dance scene, and scenes of people walking around the city. This might sound a bit boring but I’m way underselling it, it was great. The movies does this really cool thing with the vampire scenes where you see her parallel to someone she’s following, on different planes, and the camera will focus back and forth between the two characters. This movie utilized that fade-in and fade-out technique often and it worked very well. Following with the minimalist style, the sounds of this movie were also great. There were a few very specific moments when there was a spectacular soundtrack but outside of those moments the movie was filled with tons of ambient sounds like footsteps, wind, etc. and it fit the movie so well! All of these elements combined to make a movie that was incredibly stylish, cool, and simply put, beautiful.

I can’t remember who it was that said this or where I read it but someone once said that filming in black and white was like “painting with light” and exploring with endless shades of gray. Whoever said that was dead on in how beautiful they made it sound and this movie is testament to that. We tend to watch vampire movies these days where it is assured we’ll see iconic flashes of RED as blood inevitably flows but I was glad to see this film succeed of doing vampires justice without even the slightest shade of red.

Oh and before I close I have to bring attention to one scene in particular that I found great. The vampire lady was clearly the most powerful character in the movie and was capable of ripping people’s limbs off with minimal effort. We see numerous times that she’s capable of taking down anyone she wants and we watch her track potential victims throughout. There is one scene though where roles reverse. Back at the vampire’s apartment, when she’s flirting with Arash (in a vampire costume), we see the hunter let her guard down and allow herself to become the “prey” romantically. Obviously we know she has the real power the entire time but it was a fun scene to watch!

This movie was very well made, had quite the distinct style, and was certainly memorable. While I loved much about the movie, especially the style and cinematography, the lack of an even remotely dynamic story made the movie feel longer than it’s hour and forty-seven minutes.