Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Bain about television and movies to watch during the pandemic, including a show about collecting movie props, new movies on VOD–“Emma” and “Disappearance at Clifton Hill”–and why we’re going back and rewatching some old favourites.
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including Shia LeBeouf’s semi-autobiographical story “Honey Boy,” the eco-doc “Spaceship Earth,” the period dramedy “Emma,” the ripped-from-the-headlines “The Assistant,” the family drama “Ordinary Love,” the horror comedy “Extra ordinary,” the ugly divorce proceedings of “Hope Gap” and the neo-realist look at the gig economy “Sorry We Missed You.”
Niagara Falls’ Clifton Hill has no shortage of haunted houses. In exchange for a few dollars the “World Famous Street of Fun” offers up scary attractions like Frankenstein’s Haunted House, but a new film, “Disappearance at Clifton Hill,” now on VOD, isn’t content with a cheap scare or two, it’s looking to make a deeper, psychological impact. “The haunted houses aren’t actually haunted,” jokes Abby (Tuppence Middleton).
“Downton Abbey’s” Middleton is a woman troubled by a childhood incident. As a little girl on a fishing trip with her parents, she witnessed the kidnapping of a one-eyed boy. Years later, after the death of her mother she returns home to sell the family’s run-down motel, the Rainbow Inn. Sifting through some old photos she comes across some old photos that dredge up memories of the terrible event.
Instead of packing up and leaving town she opens an investigation. “I’m someone who saw it,” she says. “Saw them take him. I was seven. I was there when it happened and I have proof.” When she uncovers the story of some local performers, the Magnificent Moulins, and their missing and presumed dead son she wonders if he could be the one-eyed boy. Her sister Laure (Mindhunter’s Hannah Gross) doesn’t believe her story—Abby is a pathological liar—but local historian and podcaster Walter (David Cronenberg) does. “Do you know what happens when a body hits the bottom of the gorge?” he asks. “Think swallowing a live grenade.” That would explain why no body was ever found, but it opens the door to a conspiracy that leaves Abby questioning her sanity. “There’s a lot of history round these parts,” Walter says, ominously.
With the soft underbelly of Niagara Falls as a backdrop “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” effectively creates an eccentric atmosphere that hangs in the air; never forced, never obvious.
Director Albert Shin allows the city’s offbeat setting, including haunted houses and the uber-kitschy Flying Saucer Restaurant, to infuse itself into the offbeat nature of Abby’s story. Like the city itself, her tale isn’t exactly what it seems on the surface.
Middleton subtly reveals Abby’s complexity. She approaches her investigation with a certain amount of naïve zeal, quickly realizing that her obsession is leading her down some very dark paths. Looking for answers, she is fearless in her search for the truth amid the ambiguity of her memory. Supporting her, in a terrific turn is Cronenberg as the only person who believe she is on to something. It could have been stunt casting to bring in a master of the macabre to play a man who specializes in cataloguing the dark side of life but Cronenberg finds humour in the character while still helping move the story forward.
As a mystery “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” doesn’t have quite enough intrigue but as a character study of a person troubled by long ago events it roars like the waterfall that sits at the heart of its story.
A weekly feature from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest and most interesting movies! This week Richard looks at “Emma,” “Seberg,” and “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres including “Emma,” a period piece with a modern sensibility, “Seberg,” a by-the-book retelling of the defining time of movie actress Jean Seberg’s career, the memory mysteries of “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” and the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the weekend’s biggest releases including the upper crust shenanigans of “Emma,” the real life drama of “Seberg,” the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls” and the thriller “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies,“The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck as a deadly bookkeeper, “American Honey” starring Sasha Lane, “Unless” with Catherine Keener and “Christine” with Rebecca Hall!
“Unless,” a new film staring Catherine Keener, is a portrait of a family in distress.
Successful author—a “book club darling”—and translator Reta Winters (Keener), her physician partner Tom (Matt Craven) and children are rocked out of their suburban complacency when daughter Norah (Hannah Gross) drops out of society to become a panhandler on the streets of Toronto.
Wrapped in a thick wool blanket, holding a sign that reads “Goodness,” Norah sits, catatonically outside of legendary discount department store Honest Ed’s. Detached and despondent, the young woman sits, quiet as the falling snow that swirls around her as her family struggles to understand why and how she ended up on the street. Is it a breakdown? A protest? A personal revolution? A reckoning of some sort?
Based on Pulitzer Prize winner Carol Shields’s final novel, she passed away in 2003, “Unless” isn’t driven by plot but by Norah’s unhappiness and her family’s reaction to it. Some flowery dialogue occasionally gets in the way—“Sometimes I think that for Norah there’s a bounteous feast going on but she has not been invited.”—but Keener’s keen intelligence and concern provides the emotional core that shapes the thin story into a compelling character study. In the novel Reta’s journey was an internal one and Keener makes it external and as cinematic as possible given the subdued nature of the film.
Although the question of why and how this happened lies at the heart of the film, director Alan Gilsenan is more interested in the effects of Norah’s decision than the decision itself. There is a conclusion, a reason, but the destination in this case is less satisfying than the journey. The trauma that triggered Norah’s inward turn is unsettling, both emotionally and visually as presented in the movie, but doesn’t provide the kind of capper a story like this needs to transcend character. It feels slightly out of balance in its final minutes as it switches focus from Reta to Norah because we realize that this isn’t the story of a woman’s decision to drop out, but the story of a family’s reckoning with the aftermath of that choice.