Clifton Hill (CIFF 2019)

The setup to Clifton Hill is relatively simple. A woman, Abby (Tuppence Middleton), returns home after several years after the passing of her mother. While there, she’s reminded of something she saw as a child—a kidnapping. She makes it her goal to try to solve the kidnapping, even though it’s been 20+ years since the incident. One more thing: Abby is a compulsive liar, to the point that her sister (Hannah Gross) struggles to believe that the kidnapping even took place.

What are we, as an audience, supposed to believe? That’s a question I wish Clifton Hill played with more. It has an unreliable narrator at least in theory but in practice the technique isn’t used to much effect. It makes the mystery less interesting; our protagonist just goes through her progressions until, eventually, we either solve it or we don’t. And that’s that. The mystery itself involves characters that don’t matter to us. It’s not personal for Abby, really, which leads to a lack of interest from us. Combating that with the unreliable narrator may have helped.

There are moments of fun, like seeing David Cronenberg show up as a conspiracy theory podcaster, or getting to witness hammy performances from Marie-Josée Croze and Paulino Nunes. But when your central mystery isn’t captivating, the movie around it isn’t likely to enthrall. And that’s what stops Clifton Hill from being anything more than a passable distraction.

Conclusion: Clifton Hill is a competently made movie about a mystery that the audience isn’t given reason to care about.

Recommendation: Only die-hard mystery fans need to see Clifton Hill.

  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10

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