Probably the most striking feature debut by a British filmmaker last year, The Levelling is a family tragedy that unfolds against the background of a real-life disaster. Just before Christmas 2013, a low-lying area in the southwest of England, the Somerset Levels, suffered catastrophic flooding, cutting off entire communities and leaving 28,000 acres - mainly farmland - underwater.
After four shorts, filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach wrote and directed The Levelling, which shows the aftermath of the floods and the effect they have on one family. In October 2014, Clover Catto (Ellie Kendrick) receives an urgent call to return to the family farm where she grew up; her brother is dead and her father, Aubrey (David Troughton), has become seriously unhinged.
In addition to the excellence of the performances by Kendrick (Meera Reed in Game of Thrones) and Troughton, best known in the UK as a stage and TV actor, what makes The Levelling so rewarding is the way in which the landscape, still far from recovered after the floods, comes to play a major role in the film. Striking, too, is the bleak authenticity of the farming background - another real-life reality. Unable to make a living, British farmers are abandoning the land in ever greater numbers, an exodus which Brexit is certain to intensify. A remarkable and timely film.