Film Review: Monolith (2023)
Directed by Matt Vesely. Written by Lucy Campbell. Starring: Lily Sullivan.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
In theatres 26 October 2023
- Superbly led by Lily Sullivan, 'Monolith' dives into the ethics of journalism in an audio-virtual world, with an Orwellian twist -
The feature film Monolith by Australian director Matt Vesley delves into the podcast world, a fast-rising monolith itself in the audio world that has made anyone with the ability to record conversations a would-be journalist. But where do ethics stop and the lies we tell take shape?
Shot entirely on one property (and a heck of a property it is - expect to see it listed on AirBnB) in South Australia, Vesley takes us on a claustrophobic and tense ride under the rising star prowess of Lily Sullivan (Evil Dead). Lucy Campbell’s script sometimes leans into cliches and red herrings -“Let me tell you a story” growls a deep Australian voice in the opening scene - an English student’s go-to trope on how to start a piece of fiction. Thankfully, these cliches finish here and Campbell manages to explore the ethics of journalism in a modern world, tackling notions of truth and how the lies we tell can eventually define the people we become.
Lily Sullivan in 'Monolith' - Bonsai Films (Australia & New Zealand)
Of course, it’s not a mystery, sci-fi film without some extraterrestrial twists, as Sullivan’s unnamed interviewer stumbles upon possible alien encounters with some rune-filled bricks.
Following some lapses in judgement on a previous journalistic venture, Sullivan’s character is hiding out in her parent’s lush South Australian house, licking her wounds and trying to find her next big podcast hit. After an anonymous email leads her to Floramae (Ling Cooper Tang as heard on the phone) and the mention of a “brick”, Sullivan’s interviewer digs up a spiderweb’s connection to black bricks which causes strange hallucinations and sicknesses to occur around the people who receive them.
Monolith has a hint of Orson Welle’s War of the Worlds about it as Sullivan’s podcast takes off and more and more people speak up about their strange encounters with similar bricks with the air of alien fever. But before long, Campbell’s script dives headfirst into a wild final act that may make you gag and scratch your head at the same time as it wanders into truly strange territory.
Led superbly by Lily Sullivan, Vesley indeed wants to tell you an ominous story.
Michael Tessari’s cinematography makes the one location film feel both claustrophobic and expansive at the same time. We’re taken across the world through phone call interviews alone, all seen and heard through Sullivan’s eyes and ears. Just when it feels like it is about to become tedious, Vesley utilises Tessari’s cinematography to, quite literally, take us outside for a breather, or offer up ominous visitors in the night, adding to the overall anxiety felt by Sullivan’s character.
It’s a slow burn type of mystery that could pay dividends if its audience is willing to sit and truly dissect the meaning of the film beyond the podcasting virtual world it inhabits. Led superbly by Lily Sullivan, Vesley indeed wants to tell you an ominous story. Whether it lingers in your mind (or in your mouth) afterwards is an entirely different matter altogether.