Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (Movie Review)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon has been around the film festival circuit since 2021. Winning three awards at the Venice Film Festival alone, now, thanks to Saban Films and Paramount Pictures, the film will reach US theaters, digital platforms and On Demand services on September 30, 2022.

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Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night 2014, The Bad Batch 2016), the film has nothing to do with paintings. It is about Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo: Burning 2018, Money Heist: Korea- Joint Economic Area series), a girl with special powers who escapes a mental facility and into New Orleans. She comes across Bonnie (Kate Hudson: Almost Famous 200,. Bride Wars 2009), a single mother who sees a money making opportunity in Mona’s powers.

However, just as the money rolls in, they catch the attention of Officer Harold (Craig Robinson: Hot Tub Time Machine 2010, This Is the End 2013), a policeman who looks into Mona’s case. Eventually, the rest of the police begin closing in on the two women. Will Mona break out again? Well, maybe. But is it worth seeing in the first place? That depends.

It certainly has a visual flare to it. The cinematography is quite impressive, producing some lovely, dark visuals and shots. The bayou has never looked so grimly stunning. Some of its seams show, like it’s full moon shots. But the camerawork does a nice job with the visual storytelling, like using dolly zooms to show Mona’s abilities. Likewise, the soundtrack adds to it with a few eerie leitmotifs, and some moody, funky tunes in general.

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Is the film’s plot any good? Kind of. Structurally, it is familiar enough. A quirky outsider escapes isolation and makes connections with some well-meaning people while chased down by their captors. Only instead of an alien like in 1982’s ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, or 1990’s Edward Scissorhands, it is a Korean version of Carrie White. Instead of Spielbergian kids or a suburban mom, it is a stripper who uses Mona’s powers to rob people at ATMs.

So, it has more edge to it than those films, with the topless women, heavy metal, tattoos, and attitude. Though it still has room for some heart-warming moments, like Mona endearing herself to Bonnie’s son Charlie (Evan Whitten: Mr. Robot series, Destroyer 2018) and learning more about humanity along the way. Like who her friends really are, and who is just using her. It is not necessarily subtle about it either (Charlie accuses her of loving only money, followed by her swimming in bills in the next scene), but it is not badly told.

The performances are solid for the most part. Jong-seo’s Mona feels suitably disconnected and out-of-sorts, expressing a lot with a few words. Hudson and Robinson do all right enough in their roles too. However, the standout performance would go to Whitten, who gives Charlie a lively personality as the figurative angel on Mona’s shoulder. He and Jong-seo make for a nice team and make up most of the second half.

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Still, while that is a highlight of the latter section, it is a little wonky compared to the first half. They almost have different plots as the narrative thread connecting the two feels odd. Mona’s powers become less significant, Bonnie’s arc ends early, and the film ends on a damp squib. At least it is an ending, but one that feels like Amirpour was tired or running out of ideas and just needed to tie everything up while she could.

Altogether, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is an okay film. It has some strong filmmaking chops, making the most of cinematic techniques rather than breaking the bank on CGI effects for another superheroine. The acting is fair, and the storytelling is all right. However, while there is nothing particularly bad on show, there is little particularly outstanding either. It drifts into the eyes and ears, and then disappears. Harold’s fortune said, “Forget what you know,” but as nice and well-made this film is, viewers will know they’ll forget it. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 3 out of 5 stars.

Saban Films

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