Game of Thrones' Ellie Kendrick gives a star-making turn in The Levelling, the impressively assured debut film from Hope Dickson Leach
The phrase “quietly devastating” can be a tad overused in the realm of film criticism, but it’s all too appropriate when a modestly scaled film, one largely dealing with a tragedy with unsentimental honesty, manages to hit you like a ton of bricks with even the smallest moment of uplift. Such is the case with The Levelling, the impressive, assured feature debut of writer-director Hope Dickson Leach.
Set in the aftermath of the 2014 Somerset floods, The Levelling sees trainee vet Clover (Ellie Kendrick, currently best known for Game of Thrones) return to her family’s waterlogged dairy farm after many years away, following news that her brother has died from a shotgun wound. Her relationship with her father, Aubrey (David Troughton), is in as much disrepair as their uninhabitable home and damaged business. He’s firmly in denial about the apparent suicide, repeatedly dismissing the event as “a bloody stupid accident”, while the brother’s best friend (Jack Holden) is evasive regarding what he knows about what’s happened while Clover’s been away.
With its mix of rural setting, familial tensions and dashes of a detective movie, The Levelling almost comes across as something of a British answer to Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone. If there’s any justice, Kendrick’s towering performance – palpably conveying a life’s worth of built-up anxieties and sadness – should prove as star-making a turn as Jennifer Lawrence’s in that film.