God’s Own Country, written and directed by British filmmaker Francis Lee, is gay cinema at its finest.
Rough, dry, and sometimes hard to watch, the movie is a simple but empathetic story of newfound love between an unruly Yorkshire farmer, Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), and a Romanian immigrant worker, Gheorghe Ionescu (Alec Secăreanu). When Johnny’s ailing father, Martin (Ian Hart), hires Gheorghe to help around their decadent family farm, the two young men discover a strong physical and emotional attraction to each other.
Debuting with great critical acclaims during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, God’s Own Country got nominated for Outstanding British Film at the British Academy Film Awards, the BAFTA, with Josh O’Connor winning for Best actor. O’Connor would later play Prince Charles on Netflix’s drama series, The Crown.
Director Francis Lee does a great job setting the tone for the movie during the first act, and viewers quickly understand that the Saxby are a broken family. Their farm is a land of pain and dreams never fully realized, a place where words of kindness were nonexistent, such lack of affection contrasting with Gheorghe’s calm and warmth.
And my favorite aspect about God’s Own Country is how Lee sets his movie apart from the LGBTQ genre, where sadness generally permeates most scenes from beginning to end. As the story progresses, the sadness and discomfort so present in the first act subdue to hope, healing and acceptance.
God’s Own Country is a beautiful little gem in the LGBTQ movie scene – a singular piece about finding gentleness in the roughest places. Three years after its release, God’s Own Country remains a great addition to every watchlist.
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