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Release Date: 09/30/22 [Cinemas/VOD]

Genre: Fantasy/Mystery/Thriller

Studio: Paramount Pictures

"A girl with unusual powers escapes from a mental asylum and tries to make it on her own in New Orleans."


Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon are the third feature film by Ana Lily Amirpour. The director whose feature film A Girl Walks Alone Home at Night, the beautifully shot black-and-white vampire horror film, launched her as an exciting up-and-coming director to watch. Her sophomore film, The Bad Batch, the strange dystopian action horror film where a young girl is kidnapped by cannibals, proved not to be the strong follow-up people expected. With Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, Amirpour delves into familiar horror territory with diminishing returns. 


For a movie where the premise entails a woman who has telekinetic powers breaks out of a mental asylum facility in New Orleans and is then taken in by a stripper and her young son, you’d imagine the movie to be more interesting than it ultimately is. One of the fundamental problems is that the story’s characters are one-dimensional, which proves detrimental as the film heavily relies on these characters and their interactions with Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) to push its narrative forward in a compelling way. One of Mona Lisa’s first encounters is with a police officer named Harold (Craig Robinson), the meeting between the two fuels Harold’s determination to track her down, and this is essentially the sum of his character and his motivation. Robinson is fine for what little he’s given with the role and the same goes for Jong-Seo who, despite being the title character, is more of a passenger on her own journey. Ed Skrein turns in an over-the-top performance as the drug dealer Fuzz, who looks like he was heavily influenced by Alien from Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Apparently agreeing with the character's influence, Skrein delivers an extensive one-note imitation of the character to an intolerable degree. Kate Hudson as Bonnie, a stripper who befriends and takes Mona Lisa in, is like watching someone apply the most generic approach to this role. The hardened mother dances to provide for herself and her son Charlie (Evan Whitten), whom she frequently disregards. This lack of satisfactorily developing its characters into interesting fully realized ones cripples the movie's overall impact. 


While Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon suffers from a weak script, its cinematography is arguably the film's greatest strength. Shot by Pawel Pogorzelski, the DPs' resume is already impressive, having shot Hereditary, Midsommar, and Nobody. Pogorzelski skillfully captures the gorgeous New Orleans neon-soaked nightlife and grimy cityscapes that give the film its enchanting atmosphere, and maintaining that he is one of the most promising and talented cinematographers working. Unfortunately, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moons striking ambient photography can't save the film from being more than solely appealing to visually absorb.   


Amirpour’s latest cinematic offering has some pretty key flaws. Her focus on delivering a concise story of substance can be blurry. At points, often relenting to imagery or style instead of executing the best method for the narrative. What can be taken from this is that the director continues to have an interesting and authentic voice to employ as a storyteller. Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is not the directors' best work, yet she is still an exciting filmmaker to continue to watch. 

Bearing some glaring issues from its middling script, paper-thin characters, and conventional plot, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, despite its fun premise and its alluring imagery, is rather barren.

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