God's Own Country: What You Need To Know
Described by some critics as Yorkshire's answer to Brokeback Mountain, God's Own Country has been earning positive reviews and winning various accolades since it premiered at last year's Sundance Festival, but this week the film arrives in stores on DVD and Blu-ray. Here's everything you need to know...
Who's in it?
The film's small but talented cast is led by Josh O'Connor, who finds himself in the frame for BAFTA's Rising Star award this year, largely on the strength of his performance here. He's joined by Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart and Gemma Jones.
And who's directing?
This is a feature-length debut from writer-director Francis Lee, whose work on the script and behind the camera for God's Own Country have already earned him a BAFTA nomination for his efforts, as well as several award wins at the British Independent Film Awards, Sundance and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, to name a handful.
What's the plot?
The story revolves around a young man named Johnny Saxby (O'Connor) living and working on his family's farm in North Yorkshire with his father Martin (Hart) and his grandmother Deirdre (Jones). Since his father suffered a stroke, Johnny has found himself increasingly responsible for the day-to-day running of the farm, working long hours in tough conditions. When not working on the farm, Johnny is often drinking heavily and partying hard in the nearby town and, as a young man exploring his sexuality, often engages in one-night sexual encounters with other men.
Johnny returns home late after one such drink-fuelled encounter, only to find himself being angrily reprimanded by his father, who tells him that one of their cows has suffered a breach birth, blaming Johnny's absence for the resulting death of the calf.
With lambing season approaching, they decide to employ some outside help and hire a young Romanian worker named Gheorghe (Secareanu). At first, the relationship between Johnny and Gheorghe is an uneasy one; the pair get into a scuffle when Gheorghe takes offense at Johnny referring to him as a “gypsy”, but a later physical altercation turns into a sexually-charged encounter that leaves Johnny with the realisation that he is attracted to Gheorghe.
The feeling appears to be mutual and the pair quickly strike up a bond, but when Gheorghe suggests that their relationship may not last, Johnny reacts badly and after another episode of drunken behaviour, Gheorghe decides to leave, eventually taking a job in Scotland.
When Johnny's father suffers a second stroke, this time leaving him completely unable to work, Johnny seeks to reconcile with Gheorghe and realises that the farm's survival now depends entirely on him.
Does it deliver?
God's Own Country is such an assured, nuanced and accomplished drama that it's hard to believe this is a debut film from its director, but Lee does a superb job here and is rightfully being talked about as one of the most promising directors around. Based partly on Lee's own upbringing on a farm in Yorkshire, the film avoids being a one-note story about a young man discovering his sexuality and instead provides a heartfelt commentary on growing up and taking responsibility for something besides one's own happiness. If you've enjoyed films like Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, or if you're looking for a coming-of-age story that's a little different from anything else, this is well worth your time. You can find a trailer below...