There are few things as satisfying as watching a compelling psychological thriller on a chilly day. Of course, after a lifetime of enjoying such occasions one might eventually run out of movies like Seven or Silence of the Lambs and be forced to look for lesser known titles in order to fill that void. Thomas Lawes‘ Monochrome is the latest in this long line of thrillers, though it might not be the serial killer investigation you were expecting.
Monochrome follows Cosmo Jarvis as Gabriel Lenard, a synesthetic investigator on the hunt for Emma Rose (Jo Woodcock), a young woman involved in a nation-wide financial scandal. As Emma attempts to evade the authorities by fleeing to the British countryside, she unwittingly discovers her talents as a serial killer, preying on wealthy individuals. A curious game of cat and mouse ensues, as Gabriel must confront his own peculiar flaws in order to catch this unassuming killer.
As far as crime dramas go, the plot is actually fairly original, and avoids the usual pitfalls of clichéd serial-killer investigations by presenting a less theatrical take on murder. Gabriel himself serves as an unorthodox protagonist, lacking most of the noir-inspired features endemic to the genre. Overall, the narrative itself is the strongest part of the film, with several layers of nuanced characters and even some social critique thrown in for good measure.
Unfortunately, the creativity present behind the plot doesn’t quite extend to the rest of the movie. In other hands, this script might have blossomed into a genuine genre classic, but some uninspired direction, frigid pacing and limited production value keep Monochrome from achieving greatness.
This surface-level approach to the story can get frustrating, especially when the film treats incredibly interesting plot elements like Gabriel’s synesthesia as side notes, represented by lackluster visuals. It’s disappointing that the movie doesn’t quite evolve into the fascinating character study that it could have been.
Nevertheless, both Jarvis and Woodcock provide the film with compelling performances, it’s just a shame that so little is done with their unique characters. The movie ultimately succeeds in making us sympathize with these flawed individuals, but most of the hard-hitting emotional beats are saved for the last act, and by then many viewers will already have tuned out.
Monochrome is far from a bad movie, boasting a strong script and excellent casting, it’s just weighed down by some questionable creative decisions and a bloated runtime. The film has all the ingredients for a memorable thriller, but ultimately comes up short due to its execution. It might still entertain those willing to endure a few boring scenes in order to get to the meat of the story (which is legitimately interesting), but others should probably give this one a pass.
Monochrome will be available on VOD and Home Video June 6th!