A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night bravely describes itself as "the first Iranian vampire western". Arthouse cinema, at the best of times, can be divisive. Typically critics adore the presence of thematic interpretation, whereas general audiences require more hand-holding in order to get through the ambition. For me, Amirpour's directorial debut was a disappointment. It's a dramatic case of style over substance, to the point where the substance was lacking almost entirely, resulting in what resembles a pretentious art project. A young girl prowls the streets of "Bad City", an Iranian ghost town with junkies, prostitutes and murderers as its inhabitants, to which she slowly kills them off with her primitive vampiric powers.
Simply titled as "The Girl", she becomes this embodiment of an alternative policing figure where she slowly becomes corrupted by stealing one personal belonging from each victim. A primary theme that powers through Amirpour's horror feature film that allows strands of feminism to take hold. Her ominous yet ethereal presence is the manifestation of the ghostly environment around her. As the film progresses, "The Girl" then develops a romance with a hard working Iranian man, who seems to be the only semi-decent individual living in the city. And that's when the film, for me atleast, crumbles into a mess of underdeveloped, confused and monotonous themes. Arash and "The Girl" together were absent of any emotion. I felt absolutely nothing as I gradually started to fall asleep whilst they stare into each other with minimal dialogue. It should've been palpable, yet I felt nothing. And that's mostly due to Amirpour's wild combination of various genres. None of them felt prevalent throughout, consequently making the pacing incredibly inconsistent and frequently too slow.
It started off well. Vincent's monochromatic cinematography was beautiful and Amirpour's sumptuous long takes made for various jaw-dropping scenes of beauty. Initially commencing the film as a horror, she excellently portrays "The Girl" as an innocent individual who certainly has a bite. It then evolves into a romance with the pace of a western and is unable to maintain the exciting horror elements that came before. Its audacious soundtrack also blends a variety of genres and becomes a prominent aspect to the film. But with the huge amount of ambiguity and confusion, it felt underdeveloped and was unable to deliver any thought-provoking sentiment. Its conclusion, if you can call it that, lacked any finalisation of the story and somewhat made me stare blankly into my screen questioning "is that it?".
This is a peculiar film, and a conflicting one at that. Praise must be given to the ambitious technical aspects, world-building, acting and themes. However the underlying disappointment arises from the failed blend of genres, ultimately leading to lack of focus, which has to come down to Amirpour's direction. It forcefully gives off the impression that this film is important with its contemporary aesthetic, and perhaps it is. Perhaps in years to come, I will view this as an iconic masterpiece. For now though, disappointed. Good, but not enough for me to recommend.