Film Review: God’s Own Country (2017)

God’s Own Country

“My country is dead. You can’t throw a rock in most towns without hitting an old lady crying for her children who have gone.”

Of course its taken me months to get round to watching God’s Own Country and of course I loved it utterly and completely. It’s grim up north and there’s nowt so queer as folk, not least Johnny Saxby, single-handedly holding his family’s failing farm together after his father’s stroke. He numbs the pain with blackout drinking sessions in the pub and rough casual sex with any guy who is up for it, but it’s no life, something has to change.

That change comes in the form of Gheorghe, a Romanian farm labourer brought in for the lambing season. His moody dark looks, lovely chunky knit and sheep’s cheese-making ways don’t quite melt Johnny’s heart so much as grip it, yank its pants down and roll in the mud with it. Theirs is a viscerally physical connection, reflecting the hard labour on this unforgiving Yorkshire countryside, and slowly, Gheorghe begins to shift Johnny’s views on the world.

Writer and director Francis Lee is boldly naturalistic throughout, there’s no place for the squeamish as all the ins and outs of farm business are presented. And there’s something refreshing in a narrative that eschews conventional comings-out for the cleaner lines and simple beauty of a more straight-forward love story. Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu are both brilliant as the taciturn young men whose bond is built as much in the moments of silence between them as the physical.

There’s powerful work from Gemma Jones as Johnny’s stoic grandmother and Ian Hart as his ailing father. And it’s always a pleasure to see Patsy Ferran, even as briefly as she appears here as a village friend who has escaped for university. Even briefer is John McCrea’s appearance as a quickie for Johnny in a pub toilet – everybody’s talking about Jamie having a road trip. God’s Own Country is available now on Netflix and is as perfect a romance as you could hope for.

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