Wednesday, February 7, 2018

God's Own Country - Much More Than a British Brokeback Mountain

God's Own Country, a British film that premiered at Sundance in 2017, suffered from a marketing problem right out of the gate. It was instantly dubbed a "British Brokeback Mountain" and as far as LGBT films from last year, Call Me by Your Name was taking up most of the space in the room. I am here to do my part and remedy some of that. God's Own Country is a distinct movie that deserves a lot more attention.

Early in God's Own Country, you may feel like the director (Francis Lee) is trying to turn you off or at least showing you that he is not one for compromise. There's a rough impersonal gay sex scene, hungover vomiting and a farmer elbow deep in a birthing cow. All of this eventually coalesces into the story of Johnny (Josh O'Connor), a young sheep rancher in Yorkshire who is more than just a bit rough around the edges. He's destructive and not very likable with a blunt bitterness towards the world he feels is leaving him behind. The family farm is falling apart after his father had a debilitating stroke and it's left mostly to him and his Nana (grandmother) to handle it all. I could understand wanting to be uninvited to this mud stained pity party. However you will be glad if you stick around.

Enter Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a worker from Romania that the father has hired to help out during "lambing" season. Gheorghe is brooding and quiet but in a way that instantly annoys Johnny who tends toward the immature. When the two have to spend a couple of nights together tending to some sheep and experiencing the miracle of birth (you'll know every interesting and gross fact about sheep giving birth after watching this movie) they clash at first and then Gheorghe makes the simmering hostility physical and put's Johnny in his place. That scene sparks everything that happens after. The relationship quickly becomes sexual and then in a slow burn, turns intimate.

I can instantly zero in on what I loved about this movie. Coming out stories and the accompanying angst are valuable and have their place. God's Own Country is not one of those. It's implied that Johnny's former friends from school and his Nana at least know he is gay. His dad probably knows too but that's not dinner conversation in rural Yorkshire. Instead of "that" story, God's Own Country gets to tell a genuine, down to earth (literally, again there is so much mud) love story. Johnny has probably never been in love before and has absolutely no idea how to act when he is trying to attract rather than repel. Gheorghe has to, in some cases, physically walk Johnny through it all. The titillating sex scenes give way to quiet moments such as the two in the bath together sharing a cigarette. Add in the gorgeous scenes of the rolling grasslands of northern England and a gritty story has transformed as much as Johnny himself. I give this an A and offer the advice that unless you are British, turn on the subtitles. They think they are speaking English but who knows? Don't get mad. I'm an anglophile and my British friends know the teasing is the gentlest sort.


Unknown said...

Awesome review! Sounds very interesting! I shall have to watch this! :D

Mocking Movies said...

Thanks. I hope it gets a lot more deserved attention.