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God’s Own Country (2017) written and directed by Francis Lee

Harry J. Ford of Ford On Film looks at this Yorkshire-set romantic drama. His blog is here: https://fordonfilm.wordpress.com.

To call God’s Own Country the ‘Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain’ is somewhat dismissive; while the two are similar at a surface level, Francis Lee’s directorial debut is very much its own film. Telling the story of an unhappy young man stuck on his father’s farm, and the Romanian farmhand who brings him out of his shell, God’s Own Country is an intense, moving romance, and one of the finest British films in recent years.

Newcomer Josh O’Connor is outstanding as Johnny, first seen vomiting after a night of hard drinking. Carrying the weight of the failing farm and his disapproving, recently-disabled father (Ian Hart) on his shoulders, Johnny numbs the pain with rough, casual sex and nights of heavy drinking. It’s a rough life, not helped by the unforgiving Yorkshire weather, and Johnny’s tenderness only reveals itself when tending the cows and sheep. At least, until the arrival of Gheorge, a quiet, soulful Romanian man played by Alec Secareanu. The two men are initially hostile with each other, barely saying more than a grunt as lambing season begins. As Johnny notices Gheorge’s delicate touch with the animals, and Gheorge recognises the pain within Johnny, the two grow physical, but will Johnny’s reckless behaviour destroy the only sign of hope in his life?

While the sheer beauty of the Yorkshire scenery will take your breath away, God’s Own Country offers more than just beautiful cinematography. The romance isn’t anything new, but Lee’s script is subtle and quiet, frequently choosing tense silence over dramatic speech. Though O’Connor and Secareanu are excellent as two men with anger burning inside them, perhaps the best performance belongs to Ian Hart, initially coming across as a one note gruff Yorkshireman but slowly revealing layers of vulnerability and love, climaxing with a devastating scene of quiet affection. Worse films would play the scenes of heartbreak and familial tension louder, but Lee keeps the film grounded, creating an atmosphere of repression and suffocation that slowly expands into a beautiful feeling of hope and joy.

Audiences expecting the ‘Yorkshire Brokeback Mountain’ may be disappointed to find a raw, intense emotional drama like God’s Own Country waiting for them. Pulling no punches, Francis Lee’s romance isn’t always a crowd-pleaser, focusing on broken people in tough situations. It’s not always an easy watch, but God’s Own Country is one of the finest dramas of the year.

Watch a trailer:

Runtime: 104 mins

Dir: Francis Lee

Script: Francis Lee

Starring: Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones, Ian Hart

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Where is it showing in Edinburgh and Glasgow?

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Showtimes in Cameo Edinburgh

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