Mona Lisa ★★★★

“Everyone should have someone to rush home to.” “I’m the girl they rush home from.” In Neil Jordan’s subdued neo-noir journey through London’s seamy underworld, if there is a central mystery, it’s just what it is exactly Cockney driver George and high-class call girl Simone want from one another. Early in their relationship, he asks her if clients ever fall in love with her. “Sometimes they fall for what they think I am.” “A black whore,” she goes on to explain, though George insists that’s not what he thinks she is. So then what does he think she is? Why does he let himself get pulled ever deeper into her dangerous plots? Why does he let her buy him a new wardrobe of properly fitting suits (“I’ve grown up. Time to look like other people”)? A film in which everyone knows who they are, though they’re all trying to convince themselves or each other they’re more; someone better, the girl of their dreams, a man who belongs in the world. When George finally uncovers Simone’s half of the mystery, on the boardwalk in Brighton, it’s one of the most exquisite moments of acting in 80s cinema. “You ever need someone?” she asks him. “All the time,” he tearfully responds, though his tears are thankfully hidden behind a ridiculous pair of star-shaped glasses. Other lives, new costumes, can be tried on, but only for so long; we are who we are, George comes to learn thanks to a climactic Taxi Driver-style shoot-out. The superficially happy coda suggests this doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though there’s enough unspoken heartache to last him for the rest of his life.