Keswick Film Club - Reviews - God’s Own Country

Reviews - God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country

Reviewed By Stephen Pye

God’s Own Country
God’s Own Country
God's Own Country, a first feature by Britain's Francis Lee, is the gay movie of the year. In every good sense. Its love scenes are simple, honest, unflinching yet un-pornographic. (Much kissing and naked grappling. Add the rest with your imaginations.) Its tale of emotional and romantic windfall coming to a young life wasting on the provincial vine is dourly enthralling — even if the regularity of rough trade in the local pub loo seems a bit surprising. Didn't "cottager" once have a whole different meaning in the rural north? You may not know much about Yorkshire, but you will know where you are, roughly speaking, after 30 minutes. Brokeback Moor. With a touch of Cold Comfort Fell. There are pent passions in the farming family with the only boy, Johnny (Josh O'Connor), and the new Romanian hired hand (Alec Secareanu), Gheorghe. If the father and grandmother, or their actors (Ian Hart, Gemma Jones), have a faint air of indie cinema stalwarts doing time, the two youths are honest and more to their spare dialogue, silences and hillside vigils. Stirred pot curries by the campfire; gauche gropings in the ruined barn.

Skilfully scripted and performed, there's a strangers-meet animosity at first, edged with xenophobia. ("Gippo" becomes Gheorghe's nickname). It may be just the cold, disrupting wind Johnny needs to wake his world and his heart. There’s a startling kiss of reality in the farm work itself, helping the film towards its unique tone: a kind of birth-pained pantheism. A lamb is delivered by O'Connor, messily yet movingly, while we watch. A stillborn lamb is skinned by Secareanu, in graphic detail, so its coat can clad the first, orphaned lamb, persuading the bereaved mother to suckle. Is that symbolic? As much as a gay romance — touching, awkward, revelatory — God's Own Country is a story about whom we belong to or choose to belong to. It's about the selves and identities we try or discard, in that second birth process called growing up, before we know both who we are and whom, emotionally, we are completed by.

There is also something "pre brexit" about the film too; how our mix of cultures has reached to the wildest extremes and challenged our preconceptions, and thereby how much we stand to lose, and how very little there is of benefit if we walk away.

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