Words by Austin Frape
Dir. By Francis Lee
In the directorial debut of writer and director Francis Lee, God’s Own Country takes place in a family farm in Yorkshire. The story focuses on Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a troubled sheep farmer who reluctantly continues his family business after his father (Ian Hart) had a stroke as well as Johnny’s grandmother (Gemma Jones) being left to look after him. In an effort to have extra hands on set during lambing season, a quiet Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) is hired to help Johnny for a period of time and they unexpectedly embark on a journey of self discovery.
From a filmmaking perspective, God’s Own Country is one of the more confronting experiences I’ve had from an indie movie in recent memory. Francis Lee does a great job bringing quite a bit of attention to detail and time towards the lives of farmers in the countryside and all the emotions surrounding the lifestyle. With the lack of music and dialogue, the film provides quite an atmospheric experience that will make you feel that you are in Yorkshire with the two leads. The film also does not hold back in showing graphic detail of various tasks that happen while working. There are various scenes that involve deceased calves and lambs, but they are done tastefully and are used sparingly to showcase how rough sheep farming can be.
The acting from the very small cast was great, giving incredibly realistic performances. Josh O’Connor was the standout in his complex portrayal of an alcoholic, yearning to see beyond the boundaries of life on a farm. This was especially evident in the scene where the character encountered an old friend visiting the town while on break from university. Watching Johnny develop as a character through Gheorghe brought a familiar, yet sufficiently engaging coming of age story as their relationship develops from an aggressive encounter to one of mutual respect. Through their alpha screen presence, both O’Connor and Secareanu carry the film effortlessly, and engage viewers with the intense storyline of the lead characters.
Overall, God’s Own Country was quite an interesting experience, showing off some great performances and a very atmospheric tone that is different to the usual suspects of cinema.
God’s Own Country is screening in cinemas from August 31st.