We carry our demons with us wherever we go, some would even say that they haunt us. But can we heal our souls and move on to greener pastures by facing them?...
...These are some of the philosophical themes present in director Robert Cuffley’s Bright Hill Road. Centering on alcoholic Marcy (Siobhan Williams, Deadly Class) who, after dealing with several traumatic incidents like losing her father in a tragic fire and enduring a workplace shooting, decides to head out to California to see her sister with the hope of dealing with her addiction and escaping her demons. Following another bender partway through her road trip, Marcy finds herself staying at the Bright Hill Road Boarding House where strange things begin to happen and she finds herself wondering what is real as she comes face to face with her demons.
Susie Moloney’s script, together with Robert Cuffley’s directing, creates a film with a story that leaves you just as puzzled as our protagonist with a final reveal that’ll have you questioning what you’ve seen. The twist at the end, while predictable, rewards repeat viewings. The clues as to what is really happening littered throughout the film become clearer on second viewing and make Marcy’s journey all the more rewarding.
Cuffley’s directing abilities really shine through from the minute Marcy steps foot in the boarding house. Robert Riendeau’s cinematography is also instrumental to our connection with Marcy. In the moments where she succumbs to her alcohol addiction or experiences withdrawal symptoms, the camera begins to lose focus using depth of field to put us in her shoes while she traverses the boarding house. The more she loses her grip on reality, the more we lose our grip on the film.
Cuffley uses the motif of mirrors throughout the film as “they are the windows to the soul” which I found quite interesting and a lovely added touch to the overall story.
Set and production design never seem to get enough love in film reviews, but Carl Sheldon’s work on Bright Hill Road is vital to the story. From the moment we enter the Bright Hill Road Boarding House, we get the sense that it is a time capsule with a clear and present history, effectively making the location a character itself. The production design also features little hints of what is really going on in the form of Marcy’s collage art, something that would definitely be on a CZsWorld’s Things You Missed. The collages are littered with images and clues that, upon a second viewing and some pausing for closer examination, proved impressively detailed.
At the head of the boarding house is Mrs. Inman (Agam Darshi, Sanctuary), who I at first thought was going to be Bright Hill’s version of Norman Bates. Further into the film, however, we see that she does genuinely care for Marcy and all who enter her house. Darshi plays the role as both meticulous, making sure things are organized and clean, and subdued; we get the sense that Mrs. Inman is avoiding making connections with those she cares for, which makes the reveal at the end all the more tragic for the character.
While Marcy and Mrs. Inman are the primary characters for most of the film, that balance is upended by the appearance of Owen (Michael Eklund, Wynonna Earp). Eklund has this way with most of his performances of making you like the characters he plays even when they are someone that you shouldn’t be liking. There is this unsettling feeling over the film when he arrives, but Eklund is so charming that you sort of brush the uneasiness aside and give Owen a chance…until his true motives and demons are revealed.
Of course, you can’t talk about Bright Hill Road without main character Marcy. Williams delivers a heartfelt and manic performance. You root for her to overcome her addictions so much that, when she keeps falling down and descending further into madness and alcoholism, you just want to help her. We get the sense through her performance that the shooting at the beginning of the film was just the start of her trauma. She is running from something and, when Mrs. Inman confronts her about what happened, she becomes defensive and unwilling to talk about it rather than take responsibility for her actions. There are layers to her performance that make the film all the more interesting to watch.
Bright Hill Road is a film about facing your demons, accepting the consequences of your actions, and asking for forgiveness not just from others but from yourself. If you can’t face yourself...you might find you’re a permanent resident of Bright Hill Road Boarding House.
Bright Hill Road comes to VOD and DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment on January 12th.
By Kalani Landgraf