Toronto 2019: Clifton Hill

Tuppence Middleton in Clifton Hill. Courtesy of TIFF.

Clifton Hill is a psychological thriller that strangely enough also serves as a love letter of sorts to the city of Niagara Falls (Canada).

Memory can be an interesting thing.  When Abby (Tuppence Middleton) returns to Niagara Falls after her mother’s death, it leads to some stressful relations with sister Laure (Hannah Gross).  It’s already bad enough that their mom’s hotel, The Rainbow Inn, is likely to be closed.  Neither Abby nor her sister, Laure (Hannah Gross), have the best of relationships at the moment.  The two are estranged from each other.  At some points, it almost looks like this could change.  Most of it is because of Abby’s bad habits.  To call her a pathological liar would not be an understatement.

What really gets the plot moving along is when some photos trigger memories from childhood fishing trip along the Niagara River.  As for the photos, they’re about to drive Abby down a lengthy rabbit hole.  A really big rabbit hole.  Not unlike the time you click from one page to another on Wikipedia.  Wait a minute, I think I’m referring to myself for a moment.  Okay, back to going down the fun rabbit hole!  A newspaper clipping informs us that the son of the Magnificent Moulins is presumed dead.  The police nor the Diving Bells, including Walter (David Cronenberg), could ever find a body.  Abby is determined to figure it out.  Whatever it takes!

Abby is not the only person taking a wild ride down this hole.  Other people somehow manage to join her.  Hey, it isn’t like they have much of a choice!  Laure is along for the ride at times.  However, things soon take a wild turn when Abby realizes who could be implicated.  Does it get messy?  Of course, it does.  Abby probably takes things a bit too far while investigating on her own.  Meanwhile, Charles Lake (Eric Johnson) wants to run Abby out of Niagara Falls.  Like I told you, it’s going to get messy!

Niagara Falls offers more than just looking at the three waterfalls.  The film itself is named after the “World Famous Street of Fun by the Falls.”  It’s because of this that I liken the film to being a love letter to the city.  Maybe not in the way that Ferris Bueller’s Day Off pays tribute to Chicago but it’s certainly close enough.  What I especially love about James Schultz and Albert Shin’s script is that they bring more attention to the city in ways that aren’t fashioned by a waterfall.  While we see glimpses of the Niagara Falls (Can.) skyline, it’s almost always from the north.  This makes perfect sense, of course.

Clifton Hill may not offer everything you want in a psychological thriller.  It probably isn’t going to end up becoming a classic but there’s still some solid production values.  However, Clifton Hill offers just enough in the film to leave you on the edge of your seat.

DIRECTOR:  Albert Shin
SCREENWRITERS:  James Schultz, Albert Shin
CAST:  Tuppence Middleton, Hannah Gross, Andy McQueen, Noah Reid, David Cronenberg, with Eric Johnson and Marie-­Josée Croze

Clifton Hill holds its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.