sun 22/10/2017

DVD/Blu-ray: The Levelling | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: The Levelling

DVD/Blu-ray: The Levelling

Director's fine debut finds sad secrets in rural England

Hard times in England: Clover (Ellie Kendrick) takes stock

Hope Dickson Leach’s debut dissects lives in a wintry English landscape. The catastrophic 2014 floods in the Somerset Levels are the background to the return of Clover (Game of Thrones Ellie Kendrick) to a farmyard home which simmers with unspoken secrets. The death of her brother, soon revealed to be a mysterious shotgun suicide, and the oppressive repression of dad Aubrey (David Troughton) are the barriers which need breaching before anyone can start to get healed.

The bruised, low West Country sky looks dirty grey, staining the ground below. Country life, too often marginalised in British cinema, is given poetry but little romance, recalling Thomas Hardy. Leach’s film feels lived in, while studded with grace-notes; swimming hares, and starlings’ murmurations. Our only glimpse of Clover’s brother alive, in The Levelling’s opening moments, is a flame-licked, naked, pagan scene.

The miasma of tension is meanwhile thickened by Leach’s cast. Kendrick looks stunned, barely able to speak as the messy tragedy of her brother’s last moments becomes clear. Troughton, as the ogre dad whose farmyard kingdom is in worse shape than Lear’s, brings out his bluff front and the blank-eyed moments when love, loss and horror hack at him. In a county only recently submerged, Leach keeps her drama suppressed. Shivers of disturbance in the stoic, surface world register better that way. She even finds ghastly humour in this house of secrets, as Aubrey, who left Clover in boarding-school when her mother died and won’t speak of it, breaks out tea for a visitor. “I’ll be mum,” he offers, with heedless cheer. Leach only approaches melodrama at the very end, also letting her characters’ kindness in. Before that, feelings stay boxed up, tinder in a damp world, waiting for a spark.

Extras include interviews with Leach and the principal actors, with Troughton musing on his preparation for this farming life in his radio role as Tony Archer. Compared to that dithering irritant, Aubrey is a tragic, giant role.

 

Country life is given poetry but little romance, recalling Thomas Hardy

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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