God's Own Country
Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
Writer-director Francis Lee announces himself as a major talent with this remarkable, award-winning debut; he has crafted a sharply observed, richly textured and thrillingly sensual story about the redemptive powers of love and self-acceptance. Johnny Saxby is an unhappy lad: stuck on a sheep farm in the bleak hills of Yorkshire with his stoic grandmother and disapproving father, he numbs himself with alcohol and joyless anonymous sex. Enter Gheorghe (Alec Secăreanu), a ruggedly handsome Romanian farmhand whose gentle nature and soulful appreciation for rural life provide the catalyst for transformative change.
Comparisons to Brokeback Mountain are inevitable and not unfounded—Lee cheekily and very explicitly references that earlier film—but whereas Brokeback was rather chaste and ultimately tragic, God’s Own Country is teeming with raw sexuality and frames queer love as profoundly redemptive and liberating. It’s also a film that is very much rooted in the Yorkshire countryside, finding fierce beauty in the region’s barren, windswept vistas and refusing to shy away from the more visceral elements of animal husbandry.
Josh O’Connor is outstanding as the emotionally repressed, angry and mistrustful Johnny, beautifully revealing the character’s vulnerabilities as he opens himself up to the possibility of happiness. The rest of the cast is terrific as well, with Ian Hart doing an unexpectedly affecting turn as Johnny’s father.
"One of the most assured, fully-formed British debuts of recent years."—Paul O’Callaghan, Sight & Sound
Teddy Award, Berlin 17; Best British Feature, Edinburgh 17