Review: God’s Own Country is Brokeback in the Yorkshire Dales

Josh O'Connor as Johnny and Alec Secareanu Romanian worker Gheorghe in God's Own Country. Photo: Pic

Josh O'Connor as Johnny and Alec Secareanu Romanian worker Gheorghe in God's Own Country. Photo: Picturehouses - Credit: Picturehouses

Shot on location in Yorkshire, writer-director Francis Lee's love story is like Brokeback Mountain - albeit in chillier surroundings - for its tenderly observed coupling of a disenchanted farmer's son and a Romanian migrant worker.

Josh O'Connor as Johnny and Alec Secareanu Romanian worker Gheorghe in God's Own Country. Photo: Pic

Josh O'Connor as Johnny and Alec Secareanu Romanian worker Gheorghe in God's Own Country. Photo: Picturehouses - Credit: Picturehouses

God's Own Country (15)

***

God's own country is, in this case, Yorkshire and there's something very Yorkshire about the grim situation spun around young farmer Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor), reluctantly struggling to keep the family farm going with his granny (Gemma Jones) and his partially disabled father (Ian Hart).

His life is a James Herriot book rewritten by a gay Thomas Hardy. Surly, bitter, universally resentful, binge drinking Saxby is like a grunting compendium of our national failings.


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Still, there's no wonder he's always miserable; the moment he experiences any kind of pleasure some livestock die or his father has another stroke.

That is until doe eyed Romanian Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) turns up for a week's work lambing and shows him that there is more to life than sex with apprentice auctioneers. Huh, foreigners, coming over here, taking our jobs that we hate doing, doing them better than we do, teaching us to be tender and giving reason and meaning to our drab, grey existence.

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The bleakness borders on the parodic and when Saxby is complaining about the old friends back from Uni for a week, or Hart is hobbling through the mud on his two walking sticks instructing him to fix the wall in the upper field, it can all seem too much.

Debut director Franic Lee's film though is painfully good at capturing the kind of life where almost nothing is verbalised other than abuse and instruction. Never mind the love that dare not speak its name, almost nothing is communicated through spoken language.

Underneath its gruff exterior, the film ends up being fairly soft hearted, and a little soft headed. All you need is love, and all we need is the affection of an outsider to make us whole, and broaden our blinkered outlook.

The obvious lazy comparison is Brokeback Dale, but the truer lazy comaprison is to My Beautiful Sheepdip because it's pushing a line that's been a liberal standard since the 1980s.

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