Opening 6 Oct 2022
In writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s newest film, nothing is what it seems to be, yet much is open-ended to openminded interpretation. The British-born American filmmaker has courted vampires—her 2014 Persian language debut film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night—and cannibals—The Bad Batch, 2016 "a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story”—so this film about a young Korean woman with special abilities is somewhat mild by comparison.
Set in sweaty, steamy Louisiana, Jeon Jong-seo portrays Mona Lisa Lee, a dangerous, deranged patient at a facility for the mentally ill who keeps stumbling into other people’s lives on full-mooned nights. Kept in a padded cell in a straight-jacket makes her seem unintimidating, until a hospital worker is caught off guard; later, partiers point her toward the neon-lit Big Easy, a city known for its excesses. Hungry is how she meets Ed Skrein’s character Fuzz, a dude as offbeat as he is strangely dressed; he trades a T-shirt for a kiss. Is that all he wants? Officer Harold, Craig Robinson’s character, scares her off but their paths cross again. Meeting the hedonist Bonnie—Kate Hudson’s great performance resonates onscreen—Mona Lisa learns a few things about life’s pleasures on the outside. A survivor, Bonnie is wily, crafty, and scheming and a pole dancing mama to an 11-year-old. Evan Whitten plays Charlie whose rancor toward Mona tests Bonnie’s patience, particularly since she intends on keeping her golden goose around awhile. He and Mona’s uneasiness wane as they begin connecting, so when the big glitch occurs the pair take off on a lunar adventure.
The cast convincing portrays distinctive personalities whose uniqueness and honesty shine through mixed with good ol’ commonplace characters. Amirpour’s script is laced with wry humor and non-political correctitudes. Pawel Pogorzelski’s cinematographic angles and perspective take into consideration there is more to what is shown than we are aware of, just as Taylor Levy’s editing has a sanguinely languid sharp quality. Brandon Tonner-Connolly’s production design embodies southern style. Daniele Lupp’s mesmeric music matches its environment’s personality. The only thing missing is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is compelling and shows how big a heart can grow when set free. (Marinell Haegelin)