Level 16 (Film Review)

Starring Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Sara Canning

Directed by Danishka Esterhazy

The latest feature from director Danishka Esterhazy called Level 16 focuses on the strict “correction procedures” that are taking place at an all-girls boarding school in the distant future, and it’s safe to say that the tucking in of napkins and proper silverware placement aren’t exactly the highest levels of prominent alteration going on. Let’s tidy up our messy selves before we see the headmistress of Verstalis Academy and venture on with this unrestrained review, shall we?

In a world that has been labeled as “poisonous”, which is the only characteristic we as the audience are given to identify the outside atmosphere, we’re chucked into an academy of sorts that upon first glances has all the looks and feels of a finishing school, but once our eyes see the undertakings inside…WHOA.

These young ladies have their liberties taken, and their minds are shaken by a staff that borders on militant…and that’s the cute and fuzzy version I’m giving you! What is perceived as wholehearted refining of one’s character from afar is definitely not the honing of social skills one would expect – these women are dulled to the point of not even being able to communicate their own names after time behind these walls.

The film centers around two young ladies under the programs’ scope: Vivien (Douglas) and her once-close-now-reunited friend Sophia (Martin) – their relationship is strictly forbidden (besties are a no-no in this place). There’s a mountain of secrets to be uncovered here in this school, and the latest class in session looks to be in training, but for what and why?

The double-headed dastardly duo of Headmistress Brixil (Canning) and Dr. Miro (Peter Outerbridge) keeps these ladies on their toes at all times because if they stray out of line, they’ll more than likely be swept up for further reconditioning or worse. Muted and gray tones are prevalent to force-feed the sullen connotations captured inside, giving the audience the feeling of despondency that the soldiers…ahem – “polished young ladies” are enduring while attending. Esterhazy molds the story as it unfolds, effectively using some clever twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged and interested, all the while questioning the motives of the heads in charge. Performances by all involved were strong, convincing and ultimately rewarding along the lines of character formation, and I can say that it’s been a while since I saw a “prison” film where you’re pulling your heart’s hardest for those under the boot of the authority, but this film pulled it off quite nicely.

Make sure to give this one a hard look when it makes its way towards your cell bars, but please do try to keep your uniforms pressed and your alliances kept quiet – I hear that the powers-that-be frown quite strongly on these things. ENJOY!

Level 16 (2019)
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