A bleak backdrop of Somerset scenery amid an atmospheric abyss of grief and guilt are just some of the underlying themes in Hope Dickson Leach’s feature film debut.
The Levelling follows trainee veterinarian Clover Catto (Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick) who returns home to her family farm following the death of her brother in what appears to be a suicide. Upon returning she encounters her estranged father (David Troughton) who is now a shadow of his former self. It is this troubled reconciliation over the loss of a loved one that forms the film’s central conceit, which allows these two central characters to slowly dissect their family’s turbulent past.
Because The Levelling starts with Clover’s return to the farm under the most tragic of circumstances it establishes a melancholic mood from the offset that the film never breaks from. The farm is chaotic; the house itself is decrepit and acts almost as a metaphor for the psychological mindset of the characters.
The viewer is treated as an outsider who is not privy to the family’s fractured past, although, we can instantly glean that Clover’s relationship with her dad is precarious at best. The Levelling is competently shot and maintains a consistent tone but may leave the viewer feeling constantly at odds with the limitations of its sombre story. The film teases that there is more to the narrative at times due its procedural approach to events but ultimately the central mystery doesn’t expand beyond where you expect it to go.
Judged solely as a drama based around a relationship between a father and daughter, The Levelling is a perfectly fine film, and is told in a satisfactory way. Although while Hope Dickson Leach shows much promise as a director and the performances are perfectly adequate, it is an emotionally, and narratively disengaging feature.
For all of Leach’s tight directing and adhering to a rigid atmosphere, the film is also quite predictable in parts, lacking in any real substance once stripped of its more stylistic elements.
Originally published on May 11, 2017 for HeyUGuys.