God's Own Country
Director - Francis Lee
Starring - Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones
Francis Lee's debut movie God's Own Country officially opened the Edinburgh International Festival last night and there couldn't have been a better movie to showcase what British cinema and this festival is all about.
It's lambing season in Yorkshire and a young farmer, Johnny, seeks to silence his loneliness and hurt with excessive drinking and casual gay sex. Johnny's father is suffering the effects of a stroke and brings on a Romanian farmer to help during the spring time and soon the two begin to embark on a relationship that could bring Johnny that companionship he's missing and rejecting.
Johnny is feeling suffocated by the rural English farming life and being the only able-bodied man running this farm, anytime Johnny seeks enjoyment or leaves the farm then something goes wrong. Gheorghe is brought the to the farm to help and immediately Johnny feels under threat that he isn't the alpha male of the home now and lashes out with racial slurs and silence to make Gheorghe feel unwelcome. One afternoon the tension is broken with fighting on the farm that soon turns into sexual acts and like many of the themes of the movie, it goes unspoken. Johnny soon begins to find that intimacy that is missing in his life in the hands and love of Gheorghe and the two must face an uncertain future together.
Francis Lee and cinematographer Joshua James Richards deliver a stunning movie that feels like a documentary with so much focus on the natural beauty of the North of England and focusing on the day to day routines of a farm. The script avoids many of the trappings of similar dramas with cliched dialogue, no dramatic coming out scene and there's certainly no "i can't quit you" moments here. Any such moments would be a betrayal of the muted movie that Francis Lee has crafted and to that famous Northern attitude of feelings shouldn't be spoken, they should be kept inside or medicated with a bottle.
O'Connor and Secareanu such confident performances, they feel so natural at every moment and you never once think of them as cinema characters but fully realized men. This movie isn't about coming out but about learning to allow yourself to be loved and realizing that you're not alone. With male suicides so high and among the gay community, a movie like this can show the universal power of opening up and navigating the difficulty of finding those few words and asking for help, support, and love.
You can still catch God's Own Country at the film festival...
Lee Hutchison - @lee_nostromo