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God’s Own Country tells poetic tale

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Romance paints a picture of hope for love

Through frames carved with beautiful depictions of farm life, careful glances, and emotional walls built by a lonely young man destroyed by a handsome stranger, a picture is painted of a poetic tale about true love found. A graceful resolution and optimistic gleam of romantic hope can be found in Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country.

Set in a western Yorkshire town in Northern England, John Saxby (Josh O’Connor) tends to a humble sheep and cattle farm with his father Martin (Ian Hart) and grandmother Diedre (Gemma Jones). Nightly, John drinks away his loneliness and discontentment for daily life working on the family’s farm.

Due to his father coping with the physical aftermath of a stroke, an immense amount of stress is put on John to do the majority of the farm’s daily labor. John’s disenchantment is emphasized throughout the film with a primarily blue color palette and dark overcasts over the expanses of prairie—all emphasizing the severity of a melancholy English winter.

Meaningless sex with strangers paired with the absence of emotional connection is all he has ever known in romantic encounters. He frequently ends each day at the bottom of a pint glass to drown away his reserved sorrow. 

With increasing hopelessness for John’s work ethic, Martin and Deidre seek temporary extra hands to get the farm caught up. Only a mysterious foreigner named Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) applies. Begrudgingly, John picks up the new farmhand and gives him a frigid welcome to the farm. A mild resentment lingers around every interaction he has with Gheorghe, as his presence implies John’s hard work isn’t good enough for his father. This lack of appreciation is emphasized in every stern conversation Martin has with his son.

Gheorghe excels at aiding the farm, causing John to grow even more resentful. His bitterness manifests in continually calling Gheorghe a “gypsy”—a common English racial slur for those of the nomadic Romani that Romanians mistakenly get amalgamated with—after being asked to stop.

After setting up in a dilapidated farmhouse on the edge of the Saxby’s land to mend a fence and tend to their sheep, Gheorghe gets fed up with the racial slurs and violently proclaims it will end. Taken aback, not realizing the fury he ignited in Gheorghe, he willingly agrees.

After the initial tension is resolved, a strange sexual tension soon takes place. This leads to a rough and impulsive carnal wrestle stemming from an inappropriate grab that results in John slowly opening up to Gheorghe.

His frigidity melts as Gheorghe shows him how romance and affection can feel. Even the color treatment livens up with the growth of their affection. The way Gheorghe lovingly cares for the livestock is beautiful in itself, illustrating a gusto that influences John.

Martin’s health declines leaving Gheorghe and John in charge of the farm in the midst of their budding romance. This weight put on John’s shoulders, his father’s condition, and a few words made by Gheorghe eluding to an impending departure all cause John to revert back to binge drinking. The night ultimately leads to mistake causing Gheorghe to leave in the process.

After a stint of immense doldrums, John rallies for change in not only how the farm is run to his father, but an intent to win back the man he longs to be with.

From the mind of both director and writer Francis Lee comes a subtle gay love story peppered with brutal yet beautiful honesty. The film comments on the emotionless sex-centric malaise present in modern gay male culture and offers up the notion for an openness that could lead to a deeper connection. In a world where optimistic romance is slowly becoming more represented in gay male media, God’s Own Country should be leading the flock for more beautiful romances to flourish in the coming years.

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