Somerset, October 2014. When Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) receives a call telling her that her younger brother Harry (Joe Blakemore) is dead, she must return to her family farm and face ...
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Somerset, October 2014. When Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) receives a call telling her that her younger brother Harry (Joe Blakemore) is dead, she must return to her family farm and face the man she hasn't spoken to in years: her father Aubrey (David Troughton). She is shocked to discover her home changed forever by the devastating floods that destroyed the area six months earlier, and Aubrey a tormented shadow of his former self. As she learns what has been going on in her long absence she and her father forge a new understanding, but can it withstand the troubles that they face on the ravaged farm as well as the truth of what drove Harry to take his own life?
THERE ARE ONLY a handful of directors who have portrayed the true beautiful brutality of a British farmland society, a notable tick to The Witch which had a compelling story about a young witch it also had stunning cinematography - gloomy at times but thanks to this it captivated the beauty of it all. Once released it wouldn't take long for another director to follow in its footsteps.
These footsteps are followed by first-time writer-director Hope Dickson Leache, with her film The Levelling a stunningly brutal tale of a young woman who is forced to move back to her old life on a farm due to a hard loss in the family. It's hard to find an actor who can pull this off successfully, Leache found what she was looking for with Ellie Kendrick who plays her female lead, who also carries the film. Kendrick plays Clover Catto a young veterinarian trainee who is forced to live on a farm due to the loss of her younger brother, not too long after the floods of October 2014. As soon as she arrives at the place she hasn't been to in years, she feels a sense of hardship which, until her father Aubrey (David Troughton), arrives.
Dealing with him the man who told her to leave, to do what she wants at a young age, she hates him he plagues her with emotional torture and asks her to do work around the farm, this leads her to ask questions about what really happened to her brother. Aubrey calls it an accident; however, Clover isn't so sure, seemingly wanting to play detective searching for evidence around the site, putting her father's grief to the test. There's a heavy sense of guilt to him too, Clover takes this to her advantage and starts to surround him with questions - perhaps leading him to answer her.
Given Leache's direction, the film takes this all in hand captivatingly proving strength with its female lead but forgetting one initial detail - the cumulative impact. The Levelling gives us the emotional heft of dealing with death, a sense of place, and deep depression of older family members it's her father that feels the brunt of the grief, he always refers to better time and refuses to show emotion especially when Clover comes to the investigative moment that he may be involved. This is the main flaw.
A patchy flaw that's fixed by the film's nigh perfect premise, the flawless performances, the excellent screenplay and Leache's gentle, yet beautiful direction which flows. The Levelling isn't just one of the best debuts of recent years it's one of the best British films of recent years period.
VERDICT: Kendrick is fantastic in a toughly heart-warming British directorial debut, that's gently crafted by a pure modest scale of the countryside and a beautifully atmospheric tale.
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