An atmosphere of desperate neediness permeates Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, the story of a recently paroled criminal underling named George (Bob Hoskins) and the sleek, imposing black prostitute named Simone (Cathy Tyson) he’s ordered to chauffeur to and from high-class establishments. Jordan shoots nocturnal London in scraggly, hard-edged shadows, transforming the city into an empty, lonely place where the compassionate company of others is a rare commodity. George, denied a relationship with his daughter by his ex-wife, finds in Simone a female to protect and love, while Simone – like the titular painting’s subject, an alluringly mysterious beauty – finds in her new driver a guardian who doesn’t use his fists to make a point. Jordan’s razor-sharp film initially centers on this odd couple’s contentious relationship – George finds Simone uppity and cruel, she finds him déclassé and unmanageable – before segueing into George’s search for a young friend of Simone’s who is being forced to work the streets by a ruthless pimp. The real drama, however, stems from each character’s frustrated attempt to transcend his or her lousy lot in life. Facades figure prominently in Mona Lisa, with George, Simone and their menacing boss Mortwell (Michael Caine) all trying to project the dignified, respectable refinement they crave – George as a well-dressed gentleman and suitor, Simone as a regal call girl, Mortwell as an honest businessman. And what makes Jordan’s underrated gem so affecting is the recognition, found in George and Simone’s downcast faces, that such pretenses are likely little more than fanciful, futile delusions.