Directed by Francis Lee
“God’s Own Country”, a British drama film focused on sexuality, addiction, and unhappiness, has the lonely landscapes of Yorkshire, North of England, as a backdrop. First-time director Francis Lee, who also wrote the script, saw his work facilitated by the impressive performances of Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu, who play two strangers turned intimate friends.
Johnny Saxby (O'Connor) is far from the old happy days of his adolescence after being engulfed by the real world. Seen as an irresponsible good-for-nothing by his conservative father (Ian Hart), an aging sheep-farmer who got debilitated after suffering a stroke, Johnny is forced to work many hours alone in the fields, taking care of the sheep and making sure they have the proper conditions to give healthy births. After all, it's the business that sustains the family.
However, in order to smother the loneliness and his repressed homosexuality, John refuges himself in the alcohol night after night. He is unable to keep the work flowing as he wakes up late and heavily intoxicated. Thus, tension is constantly present at home or whenever his father is around.
Things take a turn after a Romanian migrant worker, Gheorghe Ionescu (Secareanu), is hired to give him a hand during the lambing season. At first, he is mistreated by Johnny, who puts some airs while calling him ‘gypo’, but then, boss and employee are moved by a magnetic attraction, embarking on a homosexual relationship that will make the young farmer reliable and available again. Yet, because life is never too simple and constantly tests us with difficulties, Johnny spoils everything with another weighty night of drinks that ends up in betrayal, jealousy, and ultimately anguish.
“God’s Own Country” is raw and sometimes rough in its manners, being a much less-polished exercise than the Italian “Call Me By Your Name”, a refined coming-of-age drama which addresses homosexuality, personal emotions, and working processes in a contrasting way. Still, if the cited Italian drama ends in tears, the British one ends with an optimistic smile.
The compelling narrative matches the plausible scenario and the actors remain sober in their roles. O’Connor's first big move here can function as a door opener for future possibilities.