Disappearance at Clifton Hill review – mystery grapples with truth and memory

Disappearance at Clifton Hill follows Abby (Tuppence Middleton), who witnessed a kidnapping as a child. Grown-up and back in her childhood town of Clifton Hill, she is reminded of that event and throws herself into the investigation to prove that she wasn’t lying all those years ago. But the twists and turns of this disappearance could lead anywhere, and Abby may find herself wrapped up where she doesn’t want to be.

© Rhombus Media

A noir-inspired mystery set in a small border town, this film has a strong sense of setting. It plays on that small-town drama, the too-familiar families bumping up against each other, which all adds to the claustrophobic sense of danger. In terms of the story, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is well crafted. There are numerous theories about the child’s disappearance and as an audience, you are invited to try to solve the mystery yourself. The skill is that all options seem entirely possible.

Our accidental PI Abby fits well into this space. She seems to thrive from the pressure, impulsive and stubborn. She is an interesting character from whose perspective to tell the story. The audience finds out early on that Abby is one for telling stories and as each layer of this mystery is revealed, you wonder how much of it is reality.

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There is a focus on memory, on the impact of a specific moment on one’s psyche. For Abby, it is the kidnapping she witnessed and didn’t fully understand. The truth is another important theme, and the story has you questioning what that really means.

The camera keeps a close focus on Abby in particular, often taking note of her small mannerisms. With other characters, like Walter Bell (David Cronenberg) and Abby’s sister Laure (Hannah Gross), there is a distance as if Abby isn’t sure how to interact with them either. In the moments where you do get close looks at each character, it is entirely on the facial expressions – a clear view of what they are thinking.

© Rhombus Media

The music, composed by Alex Sowinski and Leland Whitty, is utilised well to build tension. A strong example is in the opening scene – when the pivotal moment happens, the music is abruptly cut off. When the music is playing, there tends to be repeated motifs and similar types of instruments – strings mostly, which squeaks and grinds, keeping the audience on edge.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill is an interesting take on noir crime, set in a unique location, and full of character drama. Excellent cinematography and music composition keep you on edge, as you eagerly watch to figure out – what happened on Clifton Hill?

Disappearance at Clifton Hill releases on VOD July 20th and on DVD August 3rd.

Kerry Baptiste

The writer of stories, reader of books, lover of cat pictures.