Boys ‘n’ the mud
Exceptional love story set in the beautiful bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors features powerful performances - All Creatures Great and Small this is not!
31 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
Josh O’Connor as farmer’s son Johnny and Alec Secareanu as Romanian émigré Gheorghe, in God’s Own Country
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY
Directed by Francis Lee
A FARM in crisis, with the patriarch disabled through a stroke, the heir to the land and beasts more interested in drinking heavily every night and having silent, illicit sex with any strapping farm hand he comes across.
This is the bleak beginning of this exceptional love story set in the tumbledown, end-of-the-world farm on the heights of the Yorkshire Moors.
All Creatures Great and Small this is not – Johnny (Josh O’Connor) is the farmer’s son who carries a bitterness at his lot around on his pointed, angry face. Not so much in the closet but in the sty, he resents his lot.
There is a tension between father Martin (Ian Hart) and his son, as if he is aware of his boy’s sexuality and is homophobic. He also thinks he should carry the blame for the slow and sorry decline of his sheep and cattle business.
Then help arrives in the shape of Romanian émigré Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), who appears to help with the lambing – and Johnny’s default meanness and general aggression turns into something else completely. When the pair are sent into the hills armed with sleeping bags, a kettle and a bucket of Pot Noodles to start lambing, the cold weather turns hot in a bothy.
And we get a flavour of the sort of work that takes place today on our farms – the lambing, dry-stone walling, slushing through dale and across streams.
But this is some love film set in a bucolic rural paradise. The decrepit poverty that afflicts the smallholder today is writ large. Barns are filthy and falling down, fences broken and left that way, and a way of life is getting increasingly harder.
Don’t let the critics fool you into thinking this is the Josh O’Connor Show, though his performance will be celebrated. His is a powerful performance, but across the board he is ably supported by Hart and Gemma Jones, and then there’s the brilliant, beautiful bleakness of the Yorkshire Moors.
God’s Own Country indeed – this is a thoughtful, often beautiful film about love, attraction and a lot more in between. Francis Lee, who grew up on a Yorkshire hill farm, has made a superb picture that feels heart-breakingly true to life.