Stars: Ellie Kendrick, David Troughton, Jack Holden
Released: 12th May 2017 (UK)
Reviewer: Van Connor
A towering debut from British director Hope Dickson Leach, The Levelling serves as something of a masterclass in the art of disguising a unique and arresting sub-genre under the wrappings of something entirely more innocuous. In this case, it’s the gothic melodrama that Leach so cunningly wraps in the garb of an entirely more commonplace rural familial drama. Once her characters are given room to dramatically flourish however, all bets are off as secrets, lies, and an almost quiveringly attention-grabbing story of grief and loss begins to unfold.
Game of Thrones actress Ellie Kendrick scores her first feature lead as trainee vet Clover, whose return to the family farm in the wake of her brother’s sudden death sees her not only deal with the burden of losing a sibling, but also having to emotionally anchor her weary and stoically detached father (David Troughton) as well. Learning that her brother in fact took his own life, Clover finds herself determined to learn more of the motivation behind the act, but in doing so she soon discovers that life at the homestead comes with an emotional burden all of its own.
Storming onto the theatrical stage with an enchantingly tumultuous performance steeped in empathetic heartbreak and an investible sense of grief-driven determination, Kendrick near instantly asserts herself as a robust and game talent clearly destined for big things. Though Troughton continuously races to consume the screen with his note perfect turn as the beaten-down and begrudging lord of the manor, Kendrick proves more than up to the task of holding – and indeed advancing – her ground. One of the most impressive screen debuts in some time, expect her name to appear on a number of Best Of lists when this year is through.
The same can also be said of director Leach, whose tense and intriguing screenplay could just as easily swap out its contemporary setting for a seventeenth century mansion and remain precisely as evocative and atmospheric. Carefully muted cinematography by relatively unknown DP Nanu Segal bolsters this sensibility to no end, with a crisp and cold environment brought to chilling life for any audience willing to envelope themselves in such a riveting and singular dramatic tale.