A very British love story | God’s Own Country Review

September- Back to school, the beginning of colder, darker evenings and the changing colour of the leaves…

It also means the road to Oscars 2018 has begun and screenings at Telluride, Venice and Toronto Film Festivals give us a sneak peek into potential awards nominees! Horray!

I will have to wait until the BFI London Film Festival next month before I get a piece of the gala action (I look forward to sharing with you!), but before festival fun, I wanted to share my review of God’s Own Country, as I suspect this movie will be a top contender at BAFTA 2018.

What strikes me most about this stunning British debut feature by Francis Lee is that this beautifully made movie is his first feature-length. Written and directed by ex-television actor, Lee, God’s Own Country is the tale of a Yorkshire sheep farmer whom, against his own prejudices, falls in love with the migrant man working on his family’s farm.

This is a star turn by Josh O’Connor (The Riot Club), who plays our protagonist, the bitterly frustrated Johnny Saxby- a character who has to take responsibility for the future of his family’s farm when his father suffers a stroke.

To prepare for their hands on roles, Turner and his love interest Gheorghe (Alec Secareau) spent several weeks having to do real farm work, displaying Lee’s vision for an authentic portrayal of isolated and gruelling farm life. Lee himself grew up in a farming family and his experiences inspired this piece of work.

Whilst many will inevitably draw comparisons to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, in my opinion, it is a standalone picture and displays many themes of a modern day ‘Brexit Britain’, particularly in Johnny’s initial reaction to working with a migrant and from the prejudice Gheorghe  receives from members of the small community.

The beauty of God’s Own Country is in its honest depiction of love. Unlike other representations in movies, Lee displays love with a subtle tenderness and against such a masculine backdrop, there is a gentle vulnerability respectfully captured. The dialogue is minimal but with a blend of delicate body language, uneasy silences and irresistible close-ups of the eyes of our characters, the devices give each scene a lot of emotional power.

The landscape is a character in itself and shot in a way that lends itself to the narrative of isolation experienced by Johnny and Gheorghe perfectly. Not just in their working lives, but personally too. A critic noted that you can almost smell the mud- and I would have to agree. The movie is earthy and completely sincere, not just in its harsh representation of farm life but in the subtlety of falling in love.

God’s Own Country may not be enjoyed by everybody and some scenes can make for some intense viewing, however, it is an important, intelligent film that finally gives gay relationships the respect they deserve on screen. This is British moviemaking at its finest.

Thank you for reading my review!

Have you seen God’s Own Country and if so, do you agree with my thoughts? It would be great to hear your comments in the box below. 

 

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