Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021) poster

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)


USA. 2021.


Director/Screenplay – Ana Lily Amirpour, Producers – John Lesher, Adam Mirels, Robbie Mirels & Dylan Weathered, Photography – Pawel Pogorzelski, Music – Daniele Luppi, Visual Effects – Brainstorm Digital (Supervisor – Eran Dinur) & Crafty Apes (Supervisor – Ben Harris), Special Effects Supervisor – Guy Clayton, Production Design – Brandon Tonner-Connolly. Production Company – Le Grisbi/Black Bicycle Entertainment/Wiip.


Jun Jeong Seo (Mona Lisa Lee), Kate Hudson (Bonnie Hunt), Craig Robinson (Officer Harold), Evan Whitten (Charlie Hunt), Ed Skrein (Fuzz), Cory Roberts (Snacky), Kyler Porche (Rick), Michael Carollo (Randy), Anthony Reynolds (Officer Martin), Rosha Washington (Receptionist), Lauren Bowles (Nurse Shirley), Jennifer Nguyen Yo (Irena), Altonio Jackson (Ray), Joshua Shane Brooke (Paulie), Serene Lee (Mrs Pong), Donna Duplantier (Miss Maurice)


Mona Lisa Lee is a North Korean refugee who has been in a New Orleans asylum since she was a child. After a nurse treats her cruelly during a pedicure, Mona Lisa uses her psychic powers to make the woman stab herself and then walks free out onto the streets. Unworldwise and innocent, Mona Lisa has no idea about things like money and is lured away by the drug dealer Fuzz. The patrol officer Harold tries to stop her but she uses her abilities to make him shoot himself in the foot. Mona Lisa is found by the stripper Bonnie who gives her somewhere to stay. After discovering Mona Lisa’s powers of mental influence, Bonnie uses these to make guys hand over their money at her strip bar. When Bonnie start getting Mona Lisa to use her powers to rob clients at ATMs, this attracts the attention of the police and Harold becomes determined to stop them.

Ana Lily Amirpour is a British-born director of Iranian background. She first made a big splash of the festival circuit with the vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), which drew on her Iranian background. From there, Amirpour went on to direct The Bad Batch (2016) that featured a one-legged Suki Waterhouse adrift in a wasteland of cannibals and crazies. In between her return with her third film here, Amirpour has spent her time directing music video and episodes of tv series such as Castle Rock (2018-9), The Twilight Zone (2019-20) and Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities (2022- ).

There have been a great many films about Psychic Powers before. The classic work on the subject was Village of the Damned (1960), which has been multiply remade. There have been other assorted works including the likes of The Power (1968), Carrie (1976), The Fury (1978), Scanners (1981), Firestarter (1984), Akira (1988), Push (2009), Thelma (2017), Freaks (2018) and The Innocents (2021) to tv’s Stranger Things (2016- ). Indeed, among these the trope of the little-speaking Asian girl who has great mental abilities is starting to become a cliché – see also the Korean The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion (2018) and the character of Karen Fukuhara in tv’s The Boys (2019- ).

The major difference between Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon and these others is all in the focus. The other films place the emphasis on depicting the powers in action, usually the downtrodden underdog erupting in displays of mass destruction and the like – they are often not dissimilar to superhero films, albeit without the costumes. By contrast, there are very few effects scenes here and Jun Jeong Seo’s powers are more ones of Mind Control. Unlike these other films, there is no explanation of her powers offered – from the title and the occasional shots of a reddish moon, we get the implication that any explanations rest more in fantasy than science-fiction.

Jun Jeong Seo in Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)
Jun Jeong Seo as Mona Lisa

Rather than displays of effects, the focus here is all on the psychic in mundane scenarios – buying things at the store, being chased by police – and of the eccentric characters that gather around her. Part of this falls into Ana Lily Amirpour’s soft feminism. Amirpour is not out there waving a political placard but rather creating stories where her frequently downtrodden or disadvantaged heroines triumph despite the odds set against them by using their innate abilities and powers.

The film features some amazing performances packed around the edges. There’s an initially unrecognisable Ed Skrein playing perhaps the world’s most benevolent drug dealer – he buys Jun Jeong Seo a fake id and plane ticket out just because. However, the show belongs to the top-billed Kate Hudson who sinks her teeth into the part of a tough-as-nails stripper who readily exploits Jun Jeong Seo’s abilities. Jun Jeong Seo gives a performance of wild, uncomprehending glares usually from behind a mop of unkempt hair – hers is a performance of few words but fierce moral imperative.

(Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Kate Hudson) at this site’s Best of 2021 Awards).

Trailer here

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