Uncovering Identity on Both Sides of the Camera: An Interview with 'Monica’ Director Andrea Pallaoro

  • Paul Risker Independent Scholar


Italian film director, Andrea Pallaoro’s striking third feature, Monica (2022), sees trans actor Trace Lysette play the titular character, a trans webcam performer who returns home and tries to reconnect with her ailing mother, Eugenia (Patricia Clarkson). Monica is a continuation of fractured relationships and loneliness, that is defining the early stages of Pallaoro’s career. At a glance, Medeas' (2013) focus on a rural family appears to share more in common with Monica, than his sophomore feature Hannah (2017), that centres on a woman thrust into loneliness when her husband is imprisoned.  Both Medeas and Monica are broader family portraits, compared to Hannah's sparseness. That's not to suggest that it lacks the depth of exploration into human nature, but it's smaller cast of characters deepens the claustrophobic intimacy of his other feature films. Pallaoro directs Monica with a patience that emphasises the character’s self-reflective nature, utilising longer takers and fewer edits to not interrupt the stream of consciousness. The director wants us to observe the character, to piece together our understanding of who she is not only by her words, but her silent existence. It’s difficult to not comprehend the spirit of Michelangelo Antonioni’s non-intrusive observational approach in Pallaoro’s storytelling, but Monica never feels an act of imitation, instead it continues a tradition of filmmaking through the individual voice of its director.

Speaking with MSJ during the film's festival run, in the spring of 2022, Pallaoro discusses encouraging the audience’s active participation, the opportunity of his non-judgmental gaze, and the creative manipulation of the cinematographic framing.

Author Biography

Paul Risker, Independent Scholar

Paul Risker is an independent scholar, freelance film and literary critic, and interviewer. Outside of editing MSJ’s interview and film festival sections, he mainly contributes to PopMatters, although his criticism and interviews have been published by both academic and non-academic publications, that include Cineaste, Film International, The Quarterly Review of Film and Video, and Little White Lies. He remains steadfast in his belief of the need to counter contemporary cultures emphasis on the momentary, by writing for posterity, adding to an ongoing discussion that is essentially us belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves.