God’s Own Country
Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) has unwillingly taken over responsibility of his family’s Yorkshire farm after his father Martin’s (Ian Hart) stroke. Johnny deals with his life by getting black-out drunk, much to the chagrin of his grandmother Deidre (Gemma Jones). To help out on the farm, they hire a handsome Romanian migrant worker named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu). Johnny initially takes a rude and slightly racist attitude towards Gheorghe, but when the pair has to go spend a couple days alone together on a remote part of the farm, they soon find some ways to keep each other warm on those cold nights in an empty barn.
This film has been described as being like Brokeback Mountain and I can see where they get that idea. Like Brokeback, this film has a country setting and a ‘two healthy young men left alone to mind the sheep’ set up, but ‘GOC’ features a LOT more rutting. I would say it’s more accurate that this is a cross between the rural-isolation setting of Brokeback and the premise of a film like Beautiful Thing. It’s a little more ‘boy meets boy’ than the heavy-handed fatalism of Brokeback.
I found God’s Own Country an immensely enjoyable and emotionally stirring film (as well as stirring in several other ways but let’s stick with the critique). Writer/Director Francis Lee (IMDB suggests this is his first feature effort), strikes a perfect dramatic tone between Johnny and Gheorghe and avoids a lot of clichés and over explaining that can be endemic of this type of film. The story, bolstered by top-notch performances from the four leads really makes God’s Own Country a stand out film and a brilliant opening night film for the fest. The only thing I found tricky to tackle was the Yorkshire accents; Americans might need a subtitle or two in spaces.
Adam Ruhl is a writer and life long Cinephile. He is the Executive
Cinema Editor of Pop Culture Beast’s Austin branch; covering festivals,
conventions, and new releases. When not filing reports, Adam can be
found stalking Alamo Drafthouse Programmers for leads on upcoming
DrafthouseFilms titles. Adam once blocked Harry Knowles entrance to a
theater until he was given extra tickets to a Roman Polanski movie.