The Levelling is a telling of intense familial drama, written and director by newbie, Hope Dickinson Leach.
The film is centred around Clover Catto who after a recent bereavement returns to her countryside home and estranged family. Leach has created a masterful account of tragedy, loss and deep unresolved family issues which showcases her as an exceptional talents and intimate storyteller.
Clover (Ellie Kendrick) flew the nest at eighteen on bad terms and has not been back home since, leaving her brother Charlie and father Aubrey (David Troughton). Upon news of her brother’s death, a suspected suicide, Clover returns to find her family manor and farm in deep squalor; ravaged by the recent floods. Resigned to live in a trailer outside the country home, Aubrey puts on a brave face and welcomes back his daughter who is all prickly and resentful in return. She immediately starts to resume an active role in trying to get the farm back on its feet but over the course discovers that Aubrey and the farm are in dire financial trouble. Slowly her deep-seated feelings of guilt for her desertion start to kick in. Aubrey starts to own the fact that his son took his own life and hidden emotions of Clover’s abandonment start to surface. All these feelings from both sides come head to head as the funeral looms and then slowly, slowly they start to make amends, to rebuild some form of father-daughter relationship.
Cinematographer Nanu Segal dresses her scenes through a muted, filtered lens showcasing an abundance of bleak grey skies and wide open country spaces, which are kept constantly wet and muddy by the pouring rain. The films’ subtle atmospheric soundscape and silent moments are frequently interrupted by familiar noise of cattle and the constant dripping of rain.
Ellie Kendrick, who viewers may recognise from Game of Thrones, plays up to the drama brilliantly; she portrays a great versatility through Clover ranging from angsty tomboy to fragile country bumpkin. She wears Clover's contradicting feelings easily from a gutsy, bossy, strong-willed young woman on her arrival to vulnerable and emotional by the film's end. David Troughton’s Aubrey is similarly exceptional as the downtrodden old farmer and he injects a sense of goofiness to a man lost in a sea of uncharted emotions after his son's tragic death.
With already a series of highly praised shorts under her belt, this is Dickinson Leach’s first directorial full feature and an impressive one at that. Dickinson Leach exhibits a deep understanding for the human condition and messy, complex familial ties where death of a loved one more so affects those that are left behind.
The Levelling is released in UK cinemas on May, 12, 2017
Words by Daniel Theophanous