Concise is not the word to describe the title of Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night nor is it the appropriate adjective to describe the film itself. Amirpour’s debut is a well-composed trifle, visually elegant yet devoid of consequence. It’s a posturing exercise that borrows from the cinema of Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino but makes only minor suggestions toward personality. Whereas 2014 offered a rich array of new female filmmakers, including Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) and Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child), Ana Lily Amirpour’s film truly feels like a debut -blunt, clunky, and inconsistent.
From the image of oil drills in perpetual motion to a landfill of the dead, A Girl Walks depicts its setting - known as Bad City - as deprived of resources and humanity. The few people that linger the streets are either dopers or dealers and those who do not fit the description already have one foot out the door. The city is bereft with vice and it’s in an act of vehicular fellatio that we see our Girl (Sheila Vand) looking on from a distance. Wearing a chador, a striped shirt, and moving through the vacant arteries of Bad City on a skateboard, The Girl makes gestures toward dismissing the city’s oppressive masculine hierarchy - or so it seems. Amirpour positions her villainous dope dealer Saeed (Dominic Rains) as the perpetrator of masculine suppression within the city, though quickly does away with his presence within the first act. What follows is a love story between The Girl and Arash (Arash Marandi), a boy victimized by Saeed’s drug peddling despite accepting the new moniker of drug kingpin upon his absence.
It’s at this point where the film becomes muddled and thematically nonsensical, where the city leaves the foreground and becomes the background to a meet-cute between The Girl and Arash. It’s a sweet setup where Arash, dressed as Dracula following a costume party, is too strung out to comprehend any danger that he may be in. But it’s Amirpour’s filmmaking that I have problems with. She becomes too reliant on her mixtape of music and effectively forces scenes to accommodate her soundtrack. It’s a crutch of diminishing returns. Even more problematic is how this technique seems to imply that sequences run much longer than they need to be - for all its minimalist flourishes, A Girl Walks is at least a half hour too long. And while cinematographer Lyle Vincent’s imagery is conventionally attractive, it only highlights the film’s purposeful embrace of nothing. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night requires a certain mentality to accept its rhythms and non sequiturs (evidenced by the cult adoration that film has won) though it simply registers as too hollow for me to ever embrace.