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average rating is 5 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Jun 5, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Karen Bryson
Written by:
Karen Bryson
Stephanie Levi-John, Sonnyboy Skelton, Cressida Cooper

Cinema does not come in a form much more personal than in Karen Bryson’s Monochromatic, a harrowing and emotional semi-autobiographical short about a young girl growing up in a world that slowly reveals its prejudice.


In 1970s London, Grace (Kennedy McCallam-Martin) is growing up with her mother Bev (Stephanie Levi-John). We are given snapshots of Grace’s life as she slowly begins to realise that the country she is growing up in is hostile towards her because of her skin colour. Her mother’s fears and traumas become more apparent as her memories become more profound – and the impact of discrimination is shown to last a lifetime.


Monochromatic is a meaningful and significant work that will leave a lasting impression on its audience. Shot in the first-person, viewers are intimately invited into Grace’s life – experiencing the innocence of childhood, the confusion of her first interactions with discrimination and the difficulty in processing the impact racism has on her mother. The choice to present the film in such a way is bold, but one that thoroughly pays off. Slow revelations such as National Front graffiti or the steel-tipped boots of a neo-nazi are horrifying to modern audiences – but by framing them in such a way through Grace’s eyes, we feel the same sense of slow conceptualising that she does as the protagonist. There is also a chaotic and dishevelled drive created by this framing, as Grace’s active childlike nature means the viewer is constantly in motion. This also matches the sense that the family’s lives can never truly be stable whilst they live under threat from racism in their community.


Stephanie Levi-John is remarkable as Grace’s mother Bev, taking the focus of much of the film given this first-person nature by virtue of her central role in Grace’s upbringing. Bev is desperate to be a powerful and authoritative role model for her daughter, but wary and horrified by her surroundings and many of her neighbours because of their prejudices. This juxtaposition is captured fantastically by Levi-John – capable of emoting great anguish before giving her best attempts at morphing back into a mother figure for Grace. It’s a wonderful performance – and one that will enrage the viewer that someone they instantly attach to is treated so terribly.


70’s London is recreated brilliantly by the filmmakers. Whether it’s fashion choices, unmistakable wallpaper or a distinctive shade of dog poo (did scientists ever figure that one out?), the world of Grace’s youth matches the immersion created by the directional choices. Authenticity is essential to a film so personal and so powerful – and it is provided in spades throughout.


Monochromatic’s powerful and vivid depiction of a dark time for racial equality in the UK is a highly recommended view – which will leave a lasting impression on audiences who will be reminded that even though the events they see are from days gone, the impact they leave still lingers.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film, Indie Feature Film
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