Iranian, feminist, punk, western, vampire, black and white movie in Farsi with English subtitles, a killer soundtrack, and a cat. If that sentence doesn't immediately make you want to see A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, then I don't know what to do with you. Ana Lily Amirpour wrote, directed, and produced one heck of a feature debut- this is my favorite movie I've seen all year.
The story is sparse, as is the dialogue, but it works. All the little details that seem either pretentious or 'edgy' or art house-wannabe actually combine so well that it all just works. The Girl barely speaks, but actress Sheila Vand portrays centuries' worth of vampire existence in her motions. I was lucky enough to catch a Q+A with both Vand and Amirpour after the screening, and Amirpour said she sent videos of snakes, cats, and sharks to Vand for character prep. And it's evident in Vand's performance- The Girl moves like a predator, sure and steady, and rarely blinks. The silence, her movements, and the black and white images all give the film an edge of danger. The Girl is unknowable, unpredictable, and it heightens the tension whenever she encounters a human in a dark alley. Another aspect of her performance that was spot-on was The Girl's general "over it"-ness. Vand explained that she studied her grandmother for the role. "She's lived through so much, seen so much. Old people are very still and calm in a way young people can't understand. My grandma is just over it, she's like just... waiting. For death, I guess. But I wanted to incorporate that into the vampire. Nothing's new, there's no rush."
Amirpour professed her deep love of music during the Q+A, which was obvious in the film. She selected a mixture of haunting Iranian electro and some American classics for The Girl and Arash (the James Dean-esque boy who becomes entranced with her) to bond over. The shot of The Girl dancing to Glass Candy to prep before she hunts down an abusive pimp was just chilling.
While the film is being toted as an 'Iranian feminist' movie, it truly didn't feel overtly one thing or the other (ideologically and otherwise.) But it was sincerely kick-ass to watch a young woman in a Middle Eastern city ("Bad City," though it isn't supposed to represent any place in particular, according to Amirpour) in a chador no less, taking vengeance on abusive men in the town.
I can't recommend this movie enough. I don't even want to say anything else, because the less you know about the film going in, the more of a treasure it is to just watch it all unfold. I will say, if for nothing else, just watch it because it is BEAUTIFUL. The wide shot of a young vampire riding a skateboard down a street, her chador flowing behind her like a cape, was worth the ticket price alone.