TIFF: The Levelling

When her brother commits suicide, Clover does something she hasn’t done in ages: she goes home. ‘Home’ is a relative term – right now it’s the trailer beside a crumbling farmhouse damaged by floods where her surly father sleeps at night. Having just deeded the farm to his now-deceased son, her levelling_01father is working at keeping what’s left of the farm running. Clover, meanwhile, is trying to piece together what would make her young, whole-life-ahead-of-him, brother put a gun to his head. Neither is mourning in a conventional way, and they’re certainly not doing it together.

The Levelling is somehow beautiful without trying to be. So is its star, Ellie Kendrick. There is strength and vulnerability to both. Shot on location in  Somerset where floods actually did threaten farms, director Hope Dickson Leach was fascinated by the plight of farmers who invest so heavily in something so fickle as land. The Levelling, her first feature, is told from the stark perspective of people for whom life and death are matters of course. levelling_03When death is part of business, part of the lifestyle, part of every day, what toll does it take, and at what remove do they experience more personal brushes with mortality?

Blunt emotions roil beneath a landscape of precise, economical film making. Dickson Leach keeps a cool, steady tone. Her lead, Ellie Kendrick, is perfectly distilled in her restrained performance, never boiling over in a role that could easily have been histrionic in less capable hands.

The Levelling had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, in its discovery section. Dickson Leach is in fact a discovery, and having discovered her, it will be just as important to keep an eye on her for great things to come.

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12 thoughts on “TIFF: The Levelling

  1. Sean

    I really enjoyed the Levelling. It’s a beautiful film that held my attention from start to finish. The movie made me want to see how the story played out, and the ending was very satisfying even though it’s not a happy one. I’m really glad we saw it.

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  2. Brittani

    This is the first time I’ve heard about this film, but I’m definitely sold. I like Ellie Kendrick on Game of Thrones, and she was especially strong this past season.

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  4. Adrian Winchester

    Just seen it at the London Film Festival. I can’t remember when I last saw a film that was such an intense, draining experience to watch. But that’s a compliment in this case as the excellent performances and the gripping story offer rewards, even though it’s not a film I’d enjoy watching repeatedly.

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