Hope Dickson Leach (director)
Wellington Films (studio)
12 May 2017 (released)
08 May 2017
There have been many films that feature farming but not many that portray it as the hard, stressful and at times unrewarding, work that it is and can be. The Levelling does just very effectively as well as telling a powerful and poignant story of an already strained family relationship having to cope with a tragedy.
Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) returns home to the family farm. Her younger brother Harry has committed suicide and her father Aubrey (David Troughton) is reeling under the pressures of the death, poor finances and his own drift towards alcoholism. The floods have caused devastation – he’s living in a trailer - and he has gangs of men helping him out. Clover a trained vet knows the travails of farming life but hadn’t expected the conditions she finds. Father and daughter have festering issues and clash but there’s no antipathy, their love is palpable but suppressed.
Ellie Kendrick’s is a poised performance as Clover, returning to the family farm elements of which are still familiar but tainted by the suicide and the brutality of the industry. David Troughton captures the desperation of a man struggling to make sense of a situation that seems to have completely enmeshed him. There’s also a strong performance from Jack Holden as the family friend James in particular a two- hander with Clover when he recounts the night of the suicide.
it is an assured and courageous directorial debut by Hope Dickson Leach broaching the sensitive issues of suicide in the farming community and devastation of Bovine TB. It is also wonderfully composed juxtaposing the beauty and the grime of the countryside and farming.
She also doesn’t flinch from depicting the realities of farming life: a male calf is destroyed; it’s of no use and dead calves are burnt. There’s no judgement as to whether it is right or wrong; it’s just what it is.