God’s Own Country is an honest stark portrayal of farm life paired with a riveting romance.
Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives on a sheep farm with his father Martin (Ian Hart) and grandmother Diedre (Gemma Jones). He’s left to run the farm on his own after his father’s stroke and due to his grandmother’s old age. When he’s not working, Johnny goes binge drinking and has sex with random men. One day Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), a Romanian migrant worker, is hired as extra help for the lambing season.
City folk often imagine acres of land with a pen filled with a fluffy herd of sheep, a rustic stable of beautiful horses, and fresh milk for breakfast. In reality, it’s a muddy, gray, isolated farmland with livestock that requires unending repetitive manual labor.
The scenic shots of the stark English countryside in contrast with the animal husbandry are a visual metaphor for Johnny’s family life. The Saxybys are pragmatic hardened folk of a few words with no time for sentimentality. It’s a kind of life where you have to take responsibility for shooting your own calf when necessary and the son takes the place of the father. The treatment of Johnny’s sexuality is truthful too: it’s acknowledged in silence.
Francis Lee portrays a well-written family dynamic in that Johnny’s self-destructive habits become unsurprising and the arrival of Gheorghe a welcoming sight. If Brokeback Mountain has taught us anything, it’s that gaydars exist in the macho side of the countryside too.
The script avoids a familiar coming-out drama and melodramatic dialogue. With sharp close-ups, it focuses instead on unspoken desires. Gheorge’s sensitivity eventually rubs off on Johnny, whose hardened edges are softened as the two gracelessly fall in love. It’s an awkward yet earnest romance between an emotionally stunted young man and a sensitive soul.
Performances here are great all-around that you root for the two lads. Josh O’Connor is a gawky Brit which makes him an easy fit for a bumpkin. This makes for a good contrast with Alec Secareanu and his bedroom eyes. Gemma Jones and Ian Hart keep the story grounded.
God’s Own Country excels as a family drama and gay romance. Both the patriarch and his son need to change for the farm to survive. Luckily for Johnny, he found the right person to help him.
God’s Own Country is an earnest look at being gay in an isolated community with ingrained norms of masculinity. It’s a poignant captivating movie about hope, love, change, and the courage to make all this happen in the face of a hard uncertain life.
God's Own Country
God's Own Country is a moving gay drama thanks to naturalistic storytelling and great performances.