The Levelling

Not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening or James Wan’s The Conjuring, this is Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling. Sorry for the confusioning.

Like Raw, this is the story of a vegetarian vet student, and it’s also the director’s debut feature. But despite the name, this isn’t a horror film. It’s a British drama that follows Clover (Ellie Kendrick, as opposed to Eddie Kendricks from The Temptations) who returns to the family farm after the death of her brother. And British is the operative word. It’s all cow-milking, wellies and misery.

Leach’s version of Somerset is relentlessly downbeat, with mud and death all around. The farm seems to be haunted by the spectre of rural horror films, such as Straw Dogs and The Witch, with their vision of families in decay. At the same time, we see the haunting imagery and dirt-under-the-fingernails earthiness of Andrea Arnold. Between this and Lady Macbeth, it’s great to see Arnold’s influence duly spreading through British cinema.

Of course, it’s not up there with Arnold’s work. That would be grazy talk. The film lacks Arnold’s flair for naturalism and characterisation, while the dialogue leaves a lot to be desi-herdBut Leach has such a strong grip on moo-d that one needn’t have a cow about the writing. And to beef fair, Kendrick is offally good as Clover, whose arrival on the farm literally unearths the past, digging up the secrets buried in the mud. Plus it’s lean at 83 minutes.

Make no mi-steak, this is an udderly assured directorial debut, like an episode of The Archers directed by Andrea Arnold.

P.S. Sorry for milking the cow puns.

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