ACT­ING OUT ‘God’s Own Coun­try’ one of best LGBT ro­mances in years

GA Voice - - Front Page -

A fa­vorite ev­ery­where it has screened this year, start­ing at its de­but at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val (where it took home the World Cinema Di­rect­ing Award), Fran­cis Lee’s ex­cel­lent new film “God’s Own Coun­try” man­ages to be not only a drama about a young man grow­ing up and tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, but also one of the best LGBT ro­mances in re­cent years.

Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Con­nor) lives on a farm in the English coun­try­side along­side his ail­ing father (Ian Hart) and his grand­mother (Gemma Jones). His days are spent work­ing out­doors and his nights are de­voted to drink­ing and in­dulging in quick, mean­ing­less sex. Things change, though, when Ro­ma­nian mi­grant worker Ghe­o­rghe (Alec Se­care­anu) comes aboard to lend a hand when the fam­ily needs help dur­ing the busy lamb­ing sea­son.

There isn’t much be­tween the two men at first, save for work, but af­ter a few nights sleep­ing in the moors, an at­trac­tion be­gins and soon there’s spon­ta­neous, mad sex. The two be­gin to de­velop feel­ings for each other. In a later (beau­ti­ful) se­quence, Ghe­o­rghe teaches Johnny the power of tak­ing his time and lov­ing an­other man — and that he can have some emo­tion in his con­nec­tions.

Lee, a for­mer ac­tor him­self, proves to be a nat­u­ral film­maker. This isn’t a rushed film. The di­rec­tor takes his time show­ing life on the farm, which is hard and suf­fo­cat­ing, of­fer­ing no es­cape for Johnny. The screen­play is lean, with char­ac­ters who don’t talk a lot and a cen­tral one who doesn’t know how to com­mu­ni­cate. The thick ac­cents are au­then­tic but do take a while to get used, how­ever.

The film has been com­pared fa­vor­ably to Ang Lee’s ground­break­ing “Broke­back Moun­tain” — and not just be­cause it deals with a pair of shep­herds. “God’s Own Coun­try” doesn’t quite have as much emo­tional im­pact as that film does but it does have more of a sense of hope. Its op­ti­mistic end­ing is em­blem­atic of an­other era but it never feels cheap — its hap­pi­ness is hard­earned and de­served. It’s cer­tainly much bolder, too, than “Broke­back Moun­tain” and the up­com­ing “Call Me By Your Name”

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