God’s Own Country: a review

Saturday nights are typically for drinking in bars or pubs before going off dancing with your mates at some hip club. Well, they used to be anyway. I’ve suddenly become that person who says ‘I’d rather be able to have a conversation’ than dance away in a club. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a boogie, but as soon as that dance floor fills up and it’s shoulder to shoulder bodies and a stranger’s bum dancing against your own I’m looking for the exit and a taxi home. So this Saturday night I truly showed my age and headed off to meet friends at the Watershed Cinema, Bristol to watch God’s Own Country. If you haven’t heard of it, you should go and see it.

It’s far from action packed, but tells the story of Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), a 20 something year old farmer who has been left to run his family’s farm after his dad has a stroke. You get the impression from the outset that he is existing and not living. His days are filled with working his fingers to the bone, brief sexual encounters and getting so drunk he passes out, only to live the same day again only this time with a horrific hangover.

Aware of how much work there is to be done on the farm, and with only Johnny capable of the manual labour, his family hire a farm hand in the shape of the very handsome Romanian migrant Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu). Gheorghe and Johnny’s relationship doesn’t exactly get off to a great start with Johnny calling Gheorghe a gypsy or ‘gyppo’ every chance he gets, despite being told not to. However, and predictably, an affection begins to grow between them. I know, it sounds cliché and I think if I had read more reviews and seen this I’d have perhaps not bothered to watch it, but stay with me. The way their relationship grows isn’t typical, in fact, my friends and I remarked at how little dialogue was used in this film. Before you knew it, Johnny and Gheorghe were a couple and suddenly Johnny seemed to start to live again. And you couldn’t help but really believe it and feel it.

It’s a simple love story really, but one that feels very real and very raw. The characters and the story line really cut deep set against the backdrop of rural Yorkshire.

It’s not for younger audiences though, what with graphic sex scenes and full frontal nudity. But it’s a nice, heart-warming love story. The slow transition from troubled, unhappy, put-upon farm boy to affectionate, helpful and emotionally mature young man is believable and subtle in a way that makes the cliché of ‘my life sucked before you came into it’ style story less cliché. And also, it didn’t make me feel too depressed about my own permanent single status in a way that romance films tend to do!

I’d fully recommend if you get the chance to see it.


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