God’s Own Country is a 2017 British drama film about Johnny Saxby, a sheep farmer in Yorkshire
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (6/10) The Forbes Film Review
On an evening where the cinema was packed out with people presumably going to see ‘It’, I decided to avoid the crowds and check out this little indie feature. I vaguely knew what it was about, but for a 15 certificate movie I’m surprised that it was as graphic as it was.
The film takes place down on the Yorkshire moors, where Johnny (Josh O’Connor, ‘The Durrells’) reluctantly helps his poorly father Martin (Ian Hart, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’) run their farm. Johnny would rather be out having fun, as we discover early on when we see him out drinking to excess and having casual sex with random guys. When lambing season arrives so does Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu, ‘The Saint’), a Romanian looking for work. Initially Johnny takes against Gheorghe, calling him a gypsy, a term which angers Gheorghe. As the pair work together in the fields however they find they have a connection and a relationship blossoms.
I have mixed feeling about this movie and I’m going to try to choose my words carefully so as not to offend anyone. As a first time feature length writer/director, Francis Lee I think did a very good job at creating a romance movie that’s main strength is its simplicity. The use of the scenery and sounds of nature were very well presented. The farming scenes looked to me to be authentic. My favourite scene in the film was where the hide of a deceased lamb was placed around a runt so that the mother of the deceased lamb would adopt it as her own. It was such a beautiful moment.
I think the way Johnny’s character matures throughout the movie was very well done. There isn’t a sudden moment where it occurs, but you can see him gradually realise that he has responsibilities and can’t continue acting the way he has been. A large part of his maturing involves his relationship with his father. At the beginning I think he resents his father for being poorly which means he has to do most of the farm work. By the end however I think he understands why the farm matters so much to his father and why it’s important that he pulls his weight.
As far as the romance goes, from a filmmaking perspective I think the way the romance is built up was done very well technically. The way the guys are around each other changes over time and you can tell there’s a tension there by the way they look at each other.
When the relationship as a couple does begin however that’s when I started to have an issue. I knew going in to this that it had been deemed a ‘British Brokeback Mountain’, so I knew that it was about a gay relationship and I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for however was the amount of sex and nudity. I’m not going to go into any graphic detail, but let’s just say it wasn’t subtle and it wasn’t just one scene. I spent a fair amount of time looking at the wall, the floor, the roof, anywhere but at the screen. One elderly gentleman walked out. Personally I did feel very uncomfortable and they did spoil the movie for me; but these scenes aside it was a good film so I wasn’t going to walk out.
The performances across the board were pretty good. O’Connor and Secareanu were convincing both as a couple but also as farmers. Hart was really good, especially during the latter part of the movie. A mention should also go to Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility) who plays Johnny’s mum, Deirdre. She had a thankless task of having to take care of her immature son as well as her ill husband. She was a character I felt sympathy for.
Had the sex scenes not been so explicit I think I’d have looked upon this film much more favourably. Unfortunately, I was uncomfortable in parts. I’m sorry if that view upsets anyone but that’s just my personal feeling. As a movie in general I think it did a lot of things well. That scene with the lambs is one of the best individual scenes I think I’ve seen all year. It’s not a film I’d recommend, but I can understand why it’s being so highly praised by the critics.
My name is Scott Forbes. I’m from Aberdeen, Scotland. I started The Forbes Film Review as a fun way simply to share my passion for movies with some friends. It’s now become a hobby which allows me discuss the latest films with people from all over the world.