‘Monolith’ Review – The Brick That Keeps On Giving
An investigative journalist (Lily Sullivan, Evil Dead Rise) has lost her reputation as a writer. When one else will hire her, she turns to podcasting, where she takes on unsolved mysteries and hoaxes for a podcast called Beyond Believable.
Far past the deadline for the first episode, an anonymous tip falls into her lap regarding a mysterious black brick. As The Interviewer falls down the rabbit hole of this dark artifact, she discovers a potential otherworldly language and a personal connection she couldn’t have predicted.
Filmed in the middle of the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, Monolith was shot over 15 days in chronological order — taking place in one location and only featuring one actor on-screen.
The sci-fi thriller could be considered a low-budget mystery. Monolith features a controlled pace driven mainly by The Interviewer talking to people over the phone. The film’s beginning is ASMR heaven as Lily Sullivan enunciates every syllable of every word with a raspy yet soothing tone.
This film requires the performance of someone who will be alone the entire time. Lily Sullivan is reacting to other people’s voices and nothing else. A character with questionable motives, The Interviewer will stop at nothing to secure a good story; even manipulating her sources if needed. Sullivan’s reactions seem genuine as The Interviewer starts not taking things seriously, only to be fully invested and obsessed by the time Monolith comes to an end.
The Interviewer has a reasonably routine podcast setup: a microphone, headphones, and an Apple laptop with editing and audio software. The most impressive aspect of Monolith is the house in which Sullivan’s character is staying in. Isolated from the city and civilization, this house is spotless with a slick front door completely made of glass and windows so large they take up an entire wall.
Directed by Matt Vesely and written by Lucy Campbell, Monolith features a behind-the-scenes crew new to making full-length feature films. At around 90 minutes, Monolith plants the seeds of something that seems fake from the get-go, only to become more and more dangerous as the film proceeds.
While some aspects of the black brick bubble to the surface throughout the film, its origin and what it’s capable of are never fully explained; not knowing what it is makes it more interesting because you don’t know what to expect. This veil of secrecy is convenient from a writing standpoint because the black brick can do anything the filmmakers desire, without hesitation, but it also keeps the film intriguing.
Monolith is fascinating because all of The Interviewer’s research resides on hearsay; word of mouth is all she has to fall back on. The more The Interviewer learns about the brick the more intense her findings become, since she broadcasts her results to the world. The brick possibly being connected to aliens makes you wonder if humanity is under a microscope. It’s as if aliens are giving this artifact to humans to see how they’ll react to it and how it will affect them.
Monolith is the cinematic equivalent of tap dancing on a hydrogen bomb for an hour and a half, hoping it won’t explode. Colleagues and interviewees tell this woman that this podcast will destroy her, and she doesn’t listen. The film requires as much patience as it requires concentration; it isn’t something you can have playing in the background.
Lily Sullivan is quietly captivating, and the storytelling masterfully unfolds in a way that mimics sweating anxiously; all the while trying to wrap an armed landmine in paper mache. Still, Monolith‘s purposeful slow tone, lack of a budget, bigger cast, and intricate set pieces will only cater to those willing to embrace a film modeled after the tortoise rather than the hare.
Monolith (2024), Well Go USA
- Lily Sullivan.
- Audibly stimulating.
- A weird yet satisfying ending.
- Could be considered slow and uneventful.