'Monica' - Family Drama

"Monica" via IMDb.

A common complaint against director and screenwriter Andrea Pallaoro, is that his screenplays (including 2017’s “Hannah” starring Charlotte Rampling) feel incomplete, with a lack of essential dialogue, in a way that puts great pressure on his actors.

Thankfully, he’s been able to find performers that are more than up to the task, as in the case of trans actor Trace Lysette in “Monica” (IFC Films).

Titular character Monica (Lysette) is a trans woman who makes her living as both a massage therapist and, separate from that, a sex worker. She has great taste in music (New Order, Pulp, OMD, Nana Mouskouri) and cars (a cherry red Mercury Capri convertible) but has trouble with men as we hear from the phone messages she leaves for (the unseen) Jimmy.

An unexpected call from Monica’s sister-in-law Laura (Emily Browning), whom she has never met, upends her mostly independent life. Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson), Monica’s difficult mother, is in the end stage of her cancer battle. She hasn’t seen her since Eugenia renounced her, saying “I can longer be your mother,” as she dropped a younger Monica off at the bus station “with five minutes to spare,” so they would have time to talk about anything. A moment, Monica tells her brother Paul (Joshua Close), that is burned into her brain.

Clearly conflicted, Monica decides to return to her childhood home to see Eugenia. Warmly welcomed by Laura and her three young children, they go to see Eugenia and her caregiver Leticia (a marvelous Adriana Barraza). Eugenia, who doesn’t appear to recognize Monica, refuses to take her medication and won’t go into a nursing facility, but reluctantly agrees to allow Monica to assist Leticia in caring for her.

Monica’s reunion with Paul goes somewhat better. Monica and Paul were close as children, and they share childhood stories. A telling moment occurs when Paul says that his talented, yet sensitive, son and middle child Brody (Graham Caldwell) reminds him of Monica. Paul’s interactions with Eugenia, with whom is extremely (!) close, border on being uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, Monica’s presence begins to have a positive effect on everyone. Eugenia, who seems more accepting of Brody than she was with Monica, appears

to be making amends in her own way. A Mother’s Day celebration finds Eugenia being increasingly embracing of Monica. As someone who never gave a second thought to being an aunt, Monica plays a delightful game of freeze-tag with Brody and his sister Britney (Ruby Fraser). While we watch Eugenia health continue to decline, we can feel a different kind of healing taking place within the family

If a movie can be both muted and visceral, that is the best way to describe “Monica.” Lysette’s performance alone elevates the film beyond the ordinary and deserves to be remembered at awards time.

Rating: B+

Gregg Shapiro is the author of nine books including the poetry chapbook Refrain in Light (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


Corrections: editorial@outsfl.com

2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



Got a juicy lead or story idea? Let us know!



Out South Florida

Hello from OutSFL! We hope you'll consider donating to us. Starting a business can be a scary prospect, but with your support so far, we've had tremendous success. Thank you!

donate button