Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 100 minutes
SIFF Says:For sheep farmer Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), virtually every aspect of his life is cold and brutal. Whether he is performing the messy work of animal husbandry on the gray-green hills of northern Yorkshire, numbing his mind at the local pub, or finding the occasional partner for joyless gay sex, Johnny’s life is largely devoid of human connection. When his father Martin (Ian Hart) suffers a stroke just before lambing season, Johnny and his mother Deidre (Gemma Jones) are forced to hire Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a Romanian migrant worker. At first, Johnny treats Gheorghe with disdain as they focus on birthing lambs. But soon Johnny notices an inherent warmth in Gheorghe. As they spend more time alone, a physical attraction develops that Johnny and Gheorghe act upon through aggressive mud wrestling, which later becomes unexpectedly intimate as Gheorghe cradles Johnny’s face for a passionate kiss. In the hands of first-time writer/director Francis Lee, the men’s relationship is refreshingly matter-of-fact and free of the homophobic overreaction so often depicted in stories about rural gay culture. While comparisons to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain are inevitable, God’s Own Country stands on its own not as a coming-out melodrama but as a heartfelt romance between characters learning how to welcome tenderness and vulnerability into their colorless lives.
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