The Northern England landscape in writer-director Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country” is as much of a star as those in leading roles. The cinematography by Joshua James Richard captures the bleak but captivating look of the area in which the story of harsh farm work and a budding gay relationship is told in this ambitious film, also scripted by Lee.
The life of Johnny Saxby, convincingly portrayed by Josh O’Connor, is a tough one. He labors on the family farm in a grueling, boring routine. The only relief is the fun he can conjure up when visiting the local pub or having pickup gay sex. But at the core there is complexity in Johnny, with needs just waiting to be fulfilled.
The film gathers steam when a temporary worker arrives. Gheorghe, played seductively by Alec Secareanu, is from Romania and it doesn’t take long for Gheorghe and Johnny to bond sexually. Gheorghe is a migrant worker, and therefore a question arises. Will the relationship endure, or will Johnny be left alone again?
Entwining with the newcomer offers a ray of light for Johnny, who has had to deal with his disapproving, ill father (Ian Hart), and his grandmother, played by Gemma Jones. The farm life is imprisoning, thereby setting up the potential of escaping or continuing in the dreary existence. The relationship with Georghe has a powerful effect.
As for the viewer, one’s reaction to the film depends largely on how involved one can get in the gay relationship that blossoms. But in any event, there is the impressive depiction of the area and the tough life of working a farm in that part of the world. An Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Reviewed October 25, 2017.