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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Levelling movie review: down on the farm

The Levelling red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

Wants to tackle huge personal and societal problems — toxic masculinity; the collapse of traditional ways of life — but it only displays them freak-show style.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories by and about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Veterinary student Clover (Ellie Kendrick: Game of Thrones) returns to her family’s farm in Somerset, in southwestern England, in the wake of her brother’s death to find that her father, Aubrey (David Troughton: Doctor Who), is still wallowing in his usual noxious emotional stew: his range of feeling runs from denial to rage and nowhere else, and from there into a bottle. (This may date from the death of his wife, Clover’s mother, many years earlier, though likely from even before that.) Was her brother’s death an accident, or could he have committed suicide in the face of horrendous problems on the farm, from the devastation caused by recent flooding to the impossibility, in the era of industrial farming, of small operations like theirs being profitable? This first feature from writer-director Hope Dickson Leach wants to tackle huge personal and societal problems, from toxic masculinity to the collapse of traditional ways of life, but it does nothing but lay them out in a freak show sort of way, for us to goggle at the dismal horror. I kept waiting for an actual story to begin, but there isn’t one here,tweet just a slow reveal of the way things are, and with no hint that they will ever change, and so The Levelling feels more like a play than a movie,tweet defined by a static passivity that is uncinematic in the extreme. Sharp and perceptive performances from Kendrick and Troughton don’t overcome the sense that this is little more than misery porn.tweet If it is attempting to clue us in to how Aubrey and Clover feel all the time — he immutably wretched; she full of hopeless despair — well, in that it succeeds.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other releases.

red light 2 stars

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The Levelling (2017) | directed by Hope Dickson Leach
US/Can release: Mar 24 2017 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: May 12 2017 (VOD same day)

MPAA: rated R for language and brief nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, sex references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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