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Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon LFF Review

★★★

Directed by and Written by: Ana Lily Amipour

Starring: Jeon Jong-so, Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson

Film Review by Robert Stayte

 


 

Ana Lily Amirpour has defied convention by not allowing herself to be stuck into a certain mould. Despite debuting with the unique Iranian vampire tale A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, she went in a different direction with her follow-up The Bad Batch, fully committing to her strange vision of a neo-western. Her latest film is once again a swerve into a different genre altogether (the grounded fantasy), with simpler yet well put together results.


In New Orleans, Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-So), a young woman with psychic powers, escapes from a mental institution and goes on the run. She runs into colourful characters like gang member Fuzz (Ed Skrein) and stripper Bonnie Belle (Kate Hudson), whilst on the run from Officer Harold (Craig Robinson). She stays at Bonnie’s house whilst the police continue to look for her, eventually forming a connection with Bonnie’s son Charlie (Evan Whitten).


Unlike Ana’s prior films, this film takes a more straightforward and easily accessible route to its destination. On the one hand, it would have benefitted from more backstory for the lead character, as Mona Lisa stays unknown all throughout. On the other hand, it makes for a tightly paced and enjoyable sit that does not waste any time. Not to mention, a few of the characters are actually somewhat 3 dimensional, with Bonnie's understandable yet self centred nature or Harold's put upon antagonism being well rounded traits.


Amirpour’s unique imagination is present in her direction, as the world is a heightened version of our own. It’s brought to life by the excellent soundtrack and visuals, both of which are beautiful. Pawel Porgorzelski makes the night life of New Orleans attractive and picks good camera angles. Not to mention, the unique sense of humour that shows that Amirpour isn’t taking it entirely seriously. Whether it be Mona’s usage of her powers or Bonnie’s introduction, which is the funniest scene in the film.


The acting is fairly good all around. Kate Hudson delivers one of her most entertaining performances in years, giving the character of Bonnie a new York accent so emphasised that it is also cartoony. Ed Skrein follows suit, playing a hip street criminal with a weird accent. Craig Robinson is cast effectively against type as the regular impotent inspector Javert type, but the standout is surprisingly Evan Whitten, who has a lot of presence and charisma, managing to be the secret heart of the film. Jong-so is okay, though she’s too held back to have any stand-out moments, she does do a fine job at being slightly off and weird.


Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is another entertainingly weird effort from Ana Lily Amirpour that might even win over non-fans of her prior works, even if it could have benefitted from a stronger lead. Whether it's an introduction to her work or not, it's worthwhile.

 

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