This film was watched as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Monica had its Seattle Premier during this festival.

I am thankful that at this point in my life, I haven’t had to ever “return home from a long period of time away because my parent is dying, and also I am very different.” It is a trope. It is often used when either the parent figure is abusive, or the child who left is rambunctious and rude and now finally better. Maybe even DRUGS are the reason for this.

The prodigal son plot line.

But with Monica, it is certainly a big twist on the story. Which I will stop stalling on, and just get forward with why.

Something is potentially sinister in those there woods. 

Monica (Trace Lysette) has been living in California, doing her own thing for some time. She is a massage therapist it seems, and seems to be fine with her life. Although she does have current relationship problems with someone. But then she gets a phone call.

Apparently, her mother (Patricia Clarkson) is close to kicking the bucket. And it has been a long time since she has been home. Over ten years. She didn’t even return when her dad died. And she decides to drive home to see it happen. That is where she meets her brother (Joshua Close) and his wife (Emily Browning).

Now, this is of course important. When Monica left, no one knew her as Monica. In fact, they knew her as a man. And one of the main reasons she left, is because her parents wouldn’t let her stay. So she has changed dramatically in this time. In fact, not just because the mom is older and sick, but just because the changes are so different, the mom doesn’t even recognize her. And she is instead brought in as an extra caregiver, to live in the home and watch the mother, where the mom doesn’t even realize its her child.

The hope is for closure. The realty? Who knows.

Also starring Adriana Barraza.

That is just one of the few changes.
Here is the first note of this film. It is filmed entirely in a 4:3 aspect ratio. We got a square film. And at no point does it go widescreen for effect, or change at all. 100% 4:3. Most of the time when I get to a 4:3 movie, it breaks it at some point, even if just for one scene. But this one, it keeps that feeling. It really makes it so we are looking at one, maybe two characters at a time. It gives that sense of feeling trapped inside a very uncomfortable, situation.

This is not a very standard film. It does tell a story, but it is one that likely wont be satisfying to the average audience. The ending comes a bit at a shocking point, very suddenly, without the closure one would fully expect. Was there some closure? Yes, a little. In times and parts you might not expect fully when they are occurring. This is a film where I needed to reflect after it was over, just what I got to see, what walls were broken, if any. And what the whole thing meant.

Lysette, as the lead role in Monica, does a fabulous job acting this film. So much pain and sadness in her eyes, while not telling their story. We get a lot of the feelings through music, including the delightful and not forgotten Dragostea Din Tei. Clarkson, as well, gives probably the best performance I have seen her give. And I saw a good 80% or more of the Sabrina television show. Now, sure, the acting is unfortunately her being an old feeble woman, who is just waiting to die. And it is a bit of a sadder role for older people to get praise for, being close to death. But I digress, she is fantastic in it.

Monica won’t be a film for a lot of people. But it should be a film for everyone who likes a strongly acted and unique story.

3 out of 4.