Writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour’s new film Mona Lisa and the Bloodmoon (2021) is full of unique energy and surprising performances. From the opening of the film as the camera follows a nurse at a mental asylum to “help” Mona Lisa Lee (Jeon Jong-seo), it is clear the film is all-in on its premise. The nurse is abusive and aggressive with Mona Lisa, who finally reveals her unusual powers – which she wields to escape. She finds herself loose on the streets of New Orleans, where she interacts with an interesting cast of characters.
Arguably the best of these characters is Fuzz played by Ed Skrein, who often has given very vanilla performances – but here, he demonstrates his flexibility and charisma. Fuzz initially feels like a copy of James Franco’s Alien from Spring Breakers (2012,) but reveals himself to be a far more sympathetic and relatable character over the course of the film’s story. Fuzz first stalks Mona Lisa as she enters a convenient store – still sporting her straightjacket – only to then offer to pay for her snacks. He then, of course, coerces her into his car for a nerve-wracking encounter, only to be far more chill than one would have expected.
Craig Robinson shows up as the seasoned police officer who runs into Mona Lisa and is surprised by her powers. His role in the film is vital, and seeing him not exclusively used for comedy was refreshing. Robinson always delivers, and that’s no exception in this film.
The biggest surprise was Kate Hudson as Bonnie, a stripper with a chip on her shoulder about the world. Mona Lisa intervenes while Bonnie is in the middle of a fight, and they form an initially symbiotic bond. Bonnie helps Mona Lisa, but also uses her powers to her advantage. It’s this relationship that brings the movie’s plot to the head as it also introduces Charlie, Bonnie’s young son played by Evan Whitten. A child’s performance is often a credit to the director, and Amirpour’s talent is only further cemented as Whitten delivers a solid performance in this unique film.
This film is one that won’t work for everyone, but it falls squarely in my wheelhouse. I’ve enjoyed the other films I have seen of Amirpour’s, and this one moves onto that list. There is a lot to digest and dissect, and I’m not 100% sure I got all of the themes she is playing with here. Despite that, I was always engaged with this film and the performances within. I give Mona Lisa and the Bloodmoon the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.