Supposedly, at a Q&A after a screening of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, director Ana Lily Amirpour was asked about the ditch of dead bodies that is seen several times throughout the film. The ditch is a background detail in scenes, an image all the more striking for how casually it is presented. The question was a complex one about how the bodies in the ditch were representative of violence in places like Libya etc, etc. Amirpour's answer was that they were shooting and there was just a ditch full of bodies, so how could they not use it? She has described her next project, The Bad Batch, as "Road Warrior meets Pretty in Pink with a dope soundtrack"*. These windows into where Amirpour's sensibilities lie might be the key to weighing your expectations for A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the film that's like listening to a Got A Girl song while staring at the James Dean poster in your room through a haze of cigarette smoke.
But with a vampire.
A Girl depicts a one horse town just named "Bad City" (California standing in for Iran), a dead-end dominated by what appears to be a one-,man crime operation, the badly-tattooed Saed, who runs roughshod over prostitute Atti, supplies drugs to elderly junkie Hossein, and lords it over Hossein's son Arash. He even takes Arash's prize vintage car as payment, pretty much the worst crime possible to commit in this James Dean filtered version of Iranian life. Saed runs afoul of the titular Girl, who stalks Bad City at night to take out wrongdoers? Just keep feeding? Really it just seems as though she's just acting on whims, which is probably not a bad approach to life when you're going to be around forever, but it does contribute to the film's lack of shape. Once Saed is out of the picture the momentum slows right down as the relationship between the Girl and lovesick puppy Arash develops.
The plot doesn't really add up to much in the end, but since A Girl's interest clearly lies more in atmosphere than plot, the atmosphere it probably a fairer metric to judge the film by, and Amirpour has made a film dripping in it. Bad City has the character befitting a town with such a simple name, contrasted between idyllic suburbs and run-down dens close to oil refineries and factories (and yes, a ditch full of dead bodies). The Girl glides through the streets on a skateboard, her chador billowing behind her like a cape, she dances in her room to Farsi indie rock. These images communicate a simple message: "this is pretty cool, huh?" A shallow message sure, but not an incorrect one. It's a world worth visiting for a while, and you're better off just letting the mood wash over you than getting too invested in the specifics, which mostly amount to the Girl and Arash making moon eyes at each other. From the dramatic black-and-white visuals to the soundtrack to the T-Bird World that it depicts, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a successful attempt to capture a specific aesthetic in a bottle, and if you dig that aesthetic, you'll dig this film.