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The Levelling Review

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When her brother commits suicide, trainee vet Clover (Ellie Kendrick) returns after a prolonged period away to the family farm in the Somerset Levels to discover the toll that the recent floods have taken on the business and her temperamental father, Aubrey (David Troughton).

★★★★★

Containing echoes of Andrew Kötting's This Filthy Earth and Duane Hopkins’ Better Things, this is the closest we're likely to get to The Archers: The Movie. Indeed, this everyday story of country folk co-stars David Troughton, who plays Tony Archer in the long-running radio soap, and debuting writer-director Hope Dickson Leach reflects its perennial theme that it's becoming increasingly difficult to make a decent living off the land. Yet, while it follows Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier's documentary The Moo Man in referencing issues like bovine TB and calf culling, this is primarily about the psychological strain placed upon farmers facing an uncertain future.

Made with sincerity and an exceptional sense of place.

Sublimating grief by throwing himself into hard work, Aubrey (Troughton) refuses to discuss the precise nature of his son's demise so soon after taking over his dairy farm. But while she wants to blame her father when she learns that her brother shot himself, prodigal Clover (Kendrick) realises she has her own pent-up resentments to deal with and it's only in the run-up to the funeral that she discovers the enormous strain the pair have been under since the fields and the farmhouse were badly damaged by flooding.

The plot may be slight and foreseeable, but Nanu Segal's photography and Sarah Finlay's production design help Dickson Leach achieve a stylistic economy and agricultural authenticity that is reinforced by the intensity of the controlled but poignant performances.

Unflinching in its depiction of rural reality, this may be a dour drama, but it has been made with sincerity and an exceptional sense of place.

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