A British Brokeback Mountain is the obvious sound bite for this assured and thoughtful love story, set in the desolate Yorkshire countryside. There is strong local interest too – Romanian actor Alec Secareanu has a starring role.
DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
STARRING: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones
ON AT: Grand Cinema & More, Happy Cinema, Cinema City Cotroceni, Europa
For twenty-something farmer Johnny (Josh O’Connor), life is as bleak as the moors on which he tends his sheep. With his mother long gone and his father struggling to recover from a stroke, the day-to-day running of the family business has fallen to him. Days are spent out in the cold with livestock, evenings bickering with his grandmother, and nights getting steaming drunk in the local pub, all ending in coming home and vomiting.
Johnny’s only relief from his hardscrabble existence comes from the odd quick fumble with local lads (he’s gay).
His lot changes when Romanian immigrant Gheorghe (Secareanu) comes to work on the farm. Emotional literacy is not a strong point in Johnny’s family, but Gheorghe bring his gentle nature to bear on his colleague as well as the animals.
Remarkably, God’s Own Country is director Francis Lee’s debut. It’s a quietly powerful film, conveying more with silences, looks and tangential shots than inferior movies can manage with all their violent explosions and high drama.
It’s also beautifully acted. O’Connor convincingly conveys Johnny’s loneliness and hopelessness, and while Gheorghe’s psychology is less of a focal point, the Romanian actor gives his character understated strength and dignity. Veteran British performers Ian Hart and Gemma Jones also give striking turns as Johnny’s gruff father and grandmother.
Lee is more interested in the personal than the political, but there’s recognition of the hostility that hard-working immigrants like Gheorghe face in provincial England, and though it goes unmentioned, the specter of Brexit looms over events: what will happen to our country and businesses without the diligent Gheorghes and Georgetas who keep us from going under?
It adds a timely note to a timeless story.
By Debbie Stowe