Monkey On One’s Back Short Film Review

★★★★★ Stars

Directed by: #AliceOrlik

Written by: #AliceOrlik

Starring: #FinGardner, #AliceOrlik

Film Review by: Alicia Moore


The phrase ‘to have a monkey on one's back’ indicates to have an addiction that one cannot control, often referring to being addicted to drugs or suffering withdrawal from a drug addiction, much like the situation being presented in this short film. Sometimes the phrase is expressed as ‘get the monkey off one's back,’ meaning to rid oneself of a burden, problem or addiction – it is obvious that the main character of this film has not reached that level of complete freedom yet.

Kyle (Fin Gardner) is the younger brother of Annie (Alice Orlik.) The film follows the two characters as Kyle takes a trip to visit his sister who left home a year ago, most likely due to her drug addiction. Kyle states that Annie has ripped the family apart because of her thirst for such substances, showing that her addiction is deeply rooted into the entire family’s lives.


Monkey On One’s Back deals with the sensitive subject of addiction through a very realistic approach. The natural settings within the film make it a familiar atmosphere for the audience, almost symbolising that addition is truly all around us, destroying lives in secret. There is a lot of unnecessary stigma surrounding addiction and I think this short addresses said stigma in an incredibly subtle way through comfortable and approachable settings. Kyle and Annie meet in a bar, like any other two individuals wanting to communicate. But the conversation is harsh and filled with sadness; not the usual conversation two siblings would have over a drink of beer. Because this is a completely typical meet-up, other than the topic of the conversation, a sense of relatability is established between the characters and the audience.

Towards the end of the film, Annie leaves and, while Kyle is looking in the opposite direction, steals his wallet. The wallet conveys the realism of the running topic. The object shows how everything surrounding you becomes irrelevant once addition consumes your reality. After taking the things she needs from the wallet, Annie simply throws it on the ground; again, showing how little she cares about the usual necessities in life – even if they belong to her own brother, a loving and important extension of her blood. The entire short film possesses immense power in its writing by Alice Orlik, as well as within the overall message, by using subtle techniques through movement and dialogue to ensure the message is presented to the audience accurately and appropriately.

The acting from both Fin Gardner and Alice Orlik is extraordinary. It becomes evident to viewers that they have taken the time to truly understand their character’s emotions and priorities, making their performances passionate and thoroughly immersive. Their reactions to each other’s presence and shared words never appear forced or ‘over passionate’ in any way; the performances are wholeheartedly brilliant and amazed me until the film’s ending seconds.


Director of photography, Luke Flaherty, succeeds in introducing attractive cinematography throughout the duration of the film. As mentioned before, the settings are perfectly simplistic, and the choice for certain camera shots shows the unravelling events in a more personal and up close light. This positively adds to the realism of the film in its entirety and grabs the audience by the collar; pulling them into the setting to sit closely beside the characters.


Monkey On One’s Back is a potent piece of film that I highly recommend to anyone; whatever your preferred film genre may be. It is of tremendous importance that Alice Orlik receives distinct praise for her acting within this short film as well as her writing and direction; her talent is indisputable and I hope to see more work from her in the near future.