Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon – movie review

Ana Lily Amirpour’s new film, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, is an intriguing and entertaining fantasy-thriller.

Mona “Lisa” Lee (Jun Jong Seo) first appears wearing a straitjacket in a padded cell at a US psychiatric institution. Regarded as a violent schizophrenic, and still only 22, the abandoned Korean immigrant has been there for the past 12 years. But after a bloody incident she breaks free. It’s a full moon and she makes her way to nearby New Orleans. By then she’s already shown she has a supernatural ability to make people do what she wants just by looking into their eyes. That’s how she comes to the aid of a stripper Bonnie Hunt (Kate Hudson) who is being pummeled by another woman.

Hunt takes her under her wing and is soon “using” Mona Lisa to her financial advantage. Hunt has an 11-year-old son, Charlie (Evan Whitten), who doesn’t approve of her mother’s lifestyle. Charlie soon befriends a naïve Mona Lisa, but all the while on her tail is a local policeman, Officer Harold (Craig Robinson).

Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) provided by the screenplay. I would call this one a bloody little charmer because it often throws up the unexpected. The characters get into all sorts of strife, but there’s warmth in the screenplay. I liked the visuals and production design, showcasing sleaze and 60s chic. The film has style.

Jun Jong Seo’s vacant look suits her characterisation as a young woman who more than once declares that she “doesn’t want to go back” to the mental home. Notwithstanding her ability to inflict harm, the film wants you to be on her side. Kate Hudson lets her hair down as a bad girl, while Evan Whitten shows vulnerability and spirit as Charlie. Craig Robinson brings a dogged mentality to his portrayal of the policeman on the hunt. Ed Skrein is a hoot as DJ and drug dealer Fuzz, while Cory Roberts is larger than life as strip club bouncer Snacky.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is a twisted and quirky fairytale with nuance that grew on me the longer it went.

Alex First

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