Thesis: Can The Girl and Arash escape from Bad City?
Inciting Incident: The Girl witnesses the pimp, Sayeed, assault a prostitute.
In a lone parked car, Sayeed harasses the prostitute, Atti, over her age, asking –
“You’re getting a little old. Don’t all women want children?”
She passes off the question and proceeds to go down on him. In the rear view mirror, Sayeed catches the form of a woman cloaked in black, watching him outside. He turns around. Sees no one. Sayeed snatches the Atti from passenger’s side and hurls her to the ground, afraid of what has seen him.
This is our introduction to the Girl. It’s not only her call to action. It’s our catalyst for the film. When I pose the thesis, ‘can the Girl escape from Bad City?’ it’s not just a time and place. It’s about what Bad City represents. Loneliness, hunger, a decay that rots things inside out. On witnessing the prostitute’s assault, the Girl becomes a force of change.
Threshold: The Girl kills Sayeed.
Tapestries made from animal skin. Deer heads, two of them, hang from the wall. Sayeed tries to seduce The Girl into his space. He lingers then pushes his finger into her mouth, only to have it bitten clean off.
It’s fair to say that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is about a sexual assault survivor. A girl who knows the violence inherent, and fights against it. We see her take the matter of a sexual abuser, one who’s hurt another, into her own hands at the threshold.
Midpoint: The Girl chooses to not devour Arash.
After a Halloween party, Arash leaves alone and high beyond his means. There’s a hunger in the Girl’s eyes that follows him through, but she’s disarmed by how harmless he looks. How vulnerable he is, watching street lamps – proclaiming –
“We’re both here.”
She takes him home. They sit awhile in tonic vinyl sound. Music swells as he approaches her from behind, in an embrace that seems to lighten the weight on both their bodies.
Bad City is a ghost town. The mechanized drone of its oil rigs echo in the overwhelming space between its people. And yet somehow in this town, two lonely individuals find each other at just the right moment. It’s a beat that touches an aspect of their needs.
Low Point: The Girl kills Arash’s father.
Hossein, Arash’s father, lies in bed with Atti, begging her to take heroine with him. After a while, the groveling stops and Hossein forces a needle into her. The Girl lunges into the room. She throws Hossein down from the bed, and devours him.
Circumstance cultivates the decisions of these characters. The Girl finds herself in the sight of a wrong that can’t be denied, regardless of who it is. It’s a cycle of hurt that can’t be averted. It’s the sort of void Bad City grows, a space where any good has to be squeezed out from the rind. This proves to be the only moment that could sever the Girl and Arash, a connection they both deeply need.
Climax: Arash forgives the Girl, and they leave Bad City.
After the death of his father, Arash knows there’s nothing left for him in Bad City. He goes to the Girl’s place, tells her that he wants to leave. But, as she gets ready Arash notices a cat in her possession, his father’s cat. He ignores it halfway down the road until it starts to eat away. He parks the car in the dead of night and paces around the headlights of his car, the Girl still inside. He decides to forget it. He needs to. And the two drive off.
I’m fine with calling it someone’s story. I’m calling it the Girl’s. Her movements in the narrative shape its structure far more than Arash’s, but here we see a climax, the big answer, come in the form of forgiveness. A character chooses to give the benefit of doubt, and moves on. This moment solidifies our question.
Can the Girl and Arash escape Bad City?
And they do. For the better.
Who’s story is it? It’s a hard question to answer because it feels like I’m quantifying the value of each narrative push of both our characters. It always feels a little slimy to do. A little judgmental.
This is especially true in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. A film about sexual assault, about addiction, about people we wish were better than they were. It’s all surrounded by circumstance, and a place like Bad City knows how to turn the worst from it.
Here, I chose my thesis on the act structure based on who truly moved the pace of the story, and it was surely the Girl. And I love the climax even if it isn’t a decision she makes. It feels so honest to be forgiven. It’s a rare thing I see in film.