REVIEW: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

After Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo), a young woman with telekinetic powers breaks out of an asylum in Louisiana, she makes her way to New Orleans where she meets fellow misfits and outcasts.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon starts off strong with this neon-infused New Orleans setting but everything does peter out in the second half. It’s a film that has both comedic moments and more serious ones and the blending of those two doesn’t always work. When it’s focused on the more eerie side of things that’s when it really worked for me.

There’s a level of tension throughout the film as though Mona Lisa has these powers which allow her to make people do whatever she wants, she’s been locked away from the world for so long that she doesn’t really have many social skills or awareness of how the world works. She’s naive in some ways and it’s easy for her to be taken advantage of. Especially at the beginning when she’s just got out of the asylum and is just wearing a straight jacket, because of Jong-seo’s size it makes her look even more vulnerable.

One of the first people she meets is Fuzz (Ed Skrein) and he’s such an interesting and layered character. Because of attitude and costuming – and perhaps Skrein’s tendency to have played bad guys – you’re not quite sure whether or not Mona Lisa is safe around of him, and even if he does help her out, he seems like the kind of person who doesn’t do it for free. Skrein was really impressive in this film. It’s a role unlike I’ve seen him in before and though Fuzz mostly appears pretty chill, there’s a slight dangerous edge to him.

The way some of the sequences that focus on Mona Lisa are shot add to the feeling that something is not quite right. The focus in on her face, the shaky camera as it follows her around, and the takes that feel like they linger just a bit too long add to the feeling that Mona Lisa is equal parts dangerous and in danger. The techno soundtrack is really effective too and the sounds when Mona Lisa uses her powers are very unsettling.

Jeon Jong-seo gives a pretty great performance but the problem lies with the fact that there ends up being too little explained about Mona Lisa. Some ambiguity is good and that aspect of her character worked to begin with, but as the film progressed and nothing was revealed about her, it became harder to connect with her.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is one of those films where I really like the vibes and the performances but the plot is more of the meandering kind which didn’t really work for me in this instance. 3/5.

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