THE LEVELLING (2016)
Starring Ellie Kendrick, David Troughton, Jack Holden, Joe Blakemore, Clare Burt, Angela Curran, Stephen Chapman, Joe Attewell, Ben Frimstone, John Sell and Jake Sparks.
Screenplay by Hope Dickson Leach.
Directed by Hope Dickson Leach.
Distributed by Monterey Media. 84 minutes. Rated R.
There is a bleak and overwhelming feel of filth and desperation surrounding the extraordinary British homecoming drama The Levelling. Guilt, tragedy and recrimination swirl together into a mud as sticky as any in the small farming town in Northern England which has been essentially destroyed by a natural disaster, and still feels the recriminations echoing weeks later.
The Levelling shows both the fragility of a lifetime and the strong bonds of family; how these bonds tie us together for better and for worse.
The story takes place in the remains of a small dairy farm in southwest England. A few months earlier, a flood had essentially wiped the place out; destroying the home and farm (not covered by insurance), leaving a morass of mud, mold, filth and death in its wake.
The death – beyond a whole bunch of badgers who were illegally poached – was that of Harry (Joe Blakemore), the son of Aubrey (David Troughton), the aging farmer who was trying to keep the family business afloat. They had finally worked out a deal which might save the farm, and Aubrey gave the place to Harry. During the party celebrating Harry taking over, he shoots himself.
All of this happens during the opening credits.
This shocking death brings his sister Clover (Ellie Kendrick of Game of Thrones) back home, despite her estrangement from their father, to try find to find out what happened. She left the family homestead a few years later to study to become a veterinarian – she insists her father threw her out, though he claims she ran away – and this is her first time back.
Aubrey insists the shooting was a tragic accident, though everyone else in town (including the police) call it a suicide. Clover wants some answers, so she hunkers down in the small town she escaped from, trying to come to terms with the father she had written off, and also the guilt she feels for not being there for her brother.
Not much else happens as far as major plot points, but The Levelling has a devastatingly clear-eyed view of this place and the twisted lives of the people who live there.
The acting is off the charts here, particularly a shockingly nuanced performance by Kendrick, who gives a star-making slow burn of a performance. You feel you know this woman and feel for her, even when she is giving in to the baser influences around her. She is a woman trying hard to hold everything together, even though she could crumble at any moment.
She plays nicely off out Troughton as her father, a man from another time who finds it hard to show – or even acknowledge to himself – his feelings, needs and weaknesses.
The Levelling is a quiet, messy, disturbing film, but it is also one that engenders some glimmers of hope amongst the mess. Farms may come and go, but family will always be there, even if it strains at you.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 25, 2017.