A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; the title of American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amapour’s subversive genre gem presents a phrase synonymous with female vulnerability. The lone girl who wanders darkened streets has for too long been the symbol of the victim, a frightened figure cowering from whatever threats await her in the shadows. It is an image deeply rooted in the cultural subconscious, a sight embedded in cinema’s iconography which says less about women than it does the social conditions they are forced to operate within. But, this girl who walks home alone at night has different ideas.
Set in the fictitious Iranian ‘Bad City’, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is at once a critical engagement with the patriarchal suppression of Iranian ideals and a shrieking call to reclaim the night with its teeth bared. Sheila Vand is our titular girl, a chador wearing vampire on a skateboard, she lurks Bad City’s Eraserhead streets preying on the bad men which inhabit them. That is until she meets Arash, a young man who lives with his heroin addicted father and represents the rare good in Bad City. Their relationship which rests at the center of Amapour’s debut like a rose between teethy thorns gives the edgy biting messages of the film a forgiving sentiment. Arash’s exposed but un-bitten neck stands for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’s open arms.
Much like her protagonist, Amapour proves herself to have plenty of teeth in her first outing. Despite notes of the nightmarish atmospheric discomfort of David Lynch, the vinyl cool of Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch, and the expressionist flourishes of early Gothic horror cinema, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a wholly original vision. Amapour’s first foray into feature film is suitably as hybridised as her mixed heritage, presenting a distinctly Iranian social critique refracted through a deconstructed application of Western genre cinema. It is a mythical debut as interesting as any and forwards its director as one of the most interesting voices in blossom.
Though imbued with a Lynchian oneiric sensibility, Amapour’s entirely unique ‘Iranian vampire western’ can not be entirely considered as a fantastical dreamscape; its ideas are very much real, with issues of the political and the social left bleeding and dripping from its fangs. Taking bites out of the patriarchal function of Iran’s Islamic Republic and turning cinema’s gender politics on its head, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has a thirst for a lot more than human blood.
A reconfiguration of traditional ideas of the lone woman, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is as much an enjoyable genre cocktail as it is a stunning feminist allegory which positions the girl, not as the vulnerable, but as the creature which lurks in the darkness. Largely overlooked, Amapour’s transgressive vocal debut is one of the most relevant horrors of the last decade, now more relevant than it has ever been. This girl who walks home alone at night is no victim, her lonely figure who trawls the evening streets knows little about vulnerability. Not this girl – she bites.
Watch the trailer for the film below: