Directorial debuts seem to be getting better and better. Confident filmmakers are emerging with these incredible and masterful movies. Francis Lee is one such director who has commanded a sensitive yet powerful piece of cinematic art in God’s Own Country, which is out on DVD & Blu-ray today.
God’s Own Country revolves around young Johnny Saxby. He lives on a farm with his disabled father and grandmother. Having to undertake more responsibility than he ever wanted, Johnny deals with his exasperations by drinking all night and looking for quick one night stands. When his family employ Gheorghe, a Romanian immigrant, to help around the farm, Johnny finds himself opening up to new emotions and the pair become extremely close.
Honestly, I’m struggling to put into words exactly how special, visceral, and important God’s Own Country is. This is a wonderful drama with intense acting and a universal story of awakening and yearning. It’s about finding home in the unlikeliest of places in a bold and brilliant way.
Lead Josh O’Connor is deserving of all the praise he has been given, including a BAFTA EE Rising Star nomination and British Independent Film Award. The work here is remarkable. As Johnny, O’Connor balances a young man who is trapped by his circumstances and inhibited by his duty, leading to a frustrating bitterness that lingers throughout his day. It is no easy feat to take this angered man and unravel him in a compelling way so his love can come to the forefront.
The smouldering Alex Secareanu as Gheorghe is a revelation. He is the opposite of Johnny with how he approaches life, a delicate and tranquil spirit who softly approaches his feelings and conveys them to Johnny. It’s on Gheorghe’s approach that allows Johnny to be himself and connect with those feelings that have been enraging him. Secreanu is a clement support in this amazing film, and he and O’Connor have this amazing chemistry together.
The other two actors here are Ian Hart as Johnny’s father Martin and Gemma Jones as grandmother Deirdre. Honestly, the scenes with Martin and Deirdre are so, so good and so poignant that God’s Own Country descends it’s Brokeback Mountain allusion to become a movie about acceptance. Not just his families, but Johnny accepting love in it’s purest form within himself.
The tenderness on display here is a silent yet moving one. From a simple salt pouring gesture to a gentle finger stroke, Francis Lee has emoted sexuality in a palpable way. The whole affair is stirring and Lee wields his camera as a keen and eager observer, capturing the rolling emerald hills of Yorkshire as a sensual backdrop to this unforgettable story. It’s an intense and poetic film with intricacy and intimacy.
The story unfolds in a glorious manner and provides intense sequences of passion and love. Tears will collate and you will be overcome with waves of emotions similarly to how Moonlight opened your feelings too. Grouped with Lee’s fearless directing that tells this absolutely stunning romantic story and the beautiful cinematography, God’s Own Country is an intense and enriching movie.
Whilst you are watching, please remember that this is a debut feature, with brilliant performances by upcoming actors. This is British film-making at it’s finest.
God’s Own Country is available on Netflix now.