“Monica,” in avoiding dramatics or the usual trauma porn feel of LGBTQIA+ stories, presents something which leaves you wanting more, in good and bad ways.

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“Monica,” in avoiding dramatics or the usual trauma porn feel of LGBTQIA+ stories, presents something which leaves you wanting more, in good and bad ways.

Director(s) Andrea Pallaoro
Screenplay By Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
Date Released (In Theaters) May 12, 2023
Genre(s) Drama, LGBT+
Film Length 1 Hour 46 Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Laura Emily Browning
Eugenia Patricia Clarkson
Paul Joshua Close
Monica Trace Lysette

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Film Summary

It isn’t clear how long, but it has been at least a decade since Monica saw her brother Paul, mother Eugenia. Paul has wanted to see his sister, at times runaway to where she was, but Eugenia, who disowned Monica, seemingly has focused her time elsewhere.

But with Paul’s wife Laura tracking down Monica, and calling her back into the fold as Eugenia deals with late-stage brain cancer, so comes the hope of reconciliation. Which with Paul should come easy, but Eugenia? That is much harder as Eugenia doesn’t even recognize their child as they are now.

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. If you’re mainly interested in this due to Emily Browning, know she isn’t heavily featured.

Things To Note

Why Is “Monica” Rated R

  • Dialog: moderate cursing
  • Violence: nothing notable
  • Sexual Content: nude bodies, both in a sexual and non-sexual context (breasts, buttocks, and the penis of a man Monica has sex with)
  • Miscellaneous: smoking and drinking

Question(s) Left Unanswered

Did Paul and Monica’s dad agree to abandon Monica?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


Monica (Trace Lysette)
“Monica (Trace Lysette),” Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, 2023, (IFC Films)

With a personal life that is a mess and her professional life as a masseuse and sex worker just doing well enough to pay the bills, things could be better. Which with Laura’s call, it seems things could look up.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Shea in “Transparent,” Femi in “David Makes Man,” and Tracey in “Hustlers.”


Paul (Joshua Close)
“Paul (Joshua Close),” Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, 2023, (IFC Films)

Like Monica, Paul was a sensitive kid. But, for a good part of his life, Monica was the sibling who could push Eugenia to do or allow Paul to do things. So with the loss of Monica, he lost his champion and best friend.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Chaz Nygaard in “Fargo,” Detective Henry Cole in “The Unusuals,” and Horace Burkhart in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”


Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson)
“Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson),” Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, 2023, (IFC Films)

Eugenia is Paul and Monica’s mom who is currently dying due to brain cancer.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Melinda Moores in “The Green Mile,” Jane Davis in “House of Cards,” Ava Paige in the “Maze Runner” franchise, and Adora Crellin in “Sharp Objects.”


Laura (Emily Browning)
“Laura (Emily Browning),” Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro, 2023, (IFC Films)

Laura is Paul’s wife and mother to his three children, with whom he has an increasingly strained relationship.

  • You May Also Know The Actor From Being: Zoe in “Class of ’07,” Laura Moon in “American Gods,” Eve in “God Help the Girl,” and Babydoll in “Sucker Punch.”


Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)


An Experience, Not An Exhibition

When the conversation is about showing you the experience of someone, there are times when it feels less about creating a sense of how certain things are universal and more about how specific a certain experience is. That isn’t done in “Monica.” Yes, Monica is trans, but at times you can forget that is an explanation for certain moments or interactions.

Through Lysette, there is a stronger focus on abandonment and how, without a secure connection, your ability to forgive tears down the boundaries built to only keep those you deserve. For you can see, Monica wants all Paul has, but it has been so elusive that being around family is almost a fever dream. Especially feeling so welcomed, without inhibition, and being given the space and ability to disappoint without being cut off.

On The Fence

The Extended Beats Which Transition One Scene or Moment To The Next

At least ten to twenty minutes of “Monica” is her staring off into the distance or just having a moment of normalcy, stretched out like she wants to hold onto every detail for when life gets rough.

In some ways, you get it, “Monica” is a slice-of-life drama without grand monologues or accolade-begging scenes. But, what it doesn’t pursue in expected drama causes slow Pacing. The kind which pushes you to check how much time is left for everything feels dragged out with minimal payoff.

An Unsatisfying Ending

Unfortunately, “Monica” is the type of film that believes it doesn’t need to spell everything out. Fine. However, in the pursuit of wanting to respect the viewer’s intelligence, you may feel they wasted your time.

There is no sense of resolution with “Monica.” You are left on a frustrating cliffhanger that makes the movie feel incomplete. Just as it seems to make progress toward the emotional apex you’ve been waiting on.

Prime example, throughout the film, because of Eugenia’s memory loss or just not recognizing Monica, you are left to question if Monica may build a new relationship with Eugenia based on who she is or try to recover the relationship they both left behind. This doesn’t get resolved. They grow closer, there are signs that maybe Monica has broken through, and maybe Eugenia remembers her, but there is no confirmation. Things just end abruptly.

[ninja_tables id=”46802″]

Monica (Trace Lysette)
Monica (2023) – Movie Review and Summary
While “Monica” deserves applause for taking a road untraveled, it does end reminding you that while it’s commendable to be different, your audience still deserves certain conventions expected by a paying consumer.
An Experience, Not An Exhibition
An Unsatisfying Ending
The Extended Beats Which Transition One Scene or Moment To The Next

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