God’s Own Country
Review by Michael D Hollick
One of the bravest films to be made in 2017, God’s Own Country is a very English coming of age romance. At its centre we have Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a young twenty-something who must do the brunt of work on the farm as his father (Ian Hart) has taken ill. However, Johnny has not fully grown into the shoes of his father yet, and preferring to spend his nights binge-drinking at the local village pub and seek a bit of slap and tickle with any like-minded lad he may come across, is not sure he even sees a future for himself on the farm. With the arrival of immigrant worker Gheorge (Alec Secareanu), Johnny’s world is turned upside down. Johnny is forced to negotiate the new terms that Gheorge’s presence on the farm brings with him, ultimately leading him to not only face his future, but the face the future to ensure the livelihood of the farm.
The film is directed by Francis Lee, who captures the scenic backdrop of the film by combining both the good and bad of the rural setting. With a nod to the canon of English literary works that also celebrate ‘god’s own country’ (be it Wuthering Heights or the poetry of Ted Hughes), Lee makes the environment a prominent element of the film, allowing it to interfere with the narrative, enhancing Johnny’s coming of age. By portraying the picturesque rolling hills, Lee also presents sheer alienation and grimness.
The backdrop, when combined with the intense interactions and burgeoning relationship between the film’s two main characters, allows the film to work on a very nuanced level of gritty realism. A key example of this is the development of Johnny’s character through the narrative. While Johnny may fairly deserve solace and comfort as life has been harsh on him, it is only when he learns to work with, and not against Gheorge, who, having left his homeland of Romania in search of work, has obviously seen things just as bad if not worse than Johnny, that he will receive the wish he most desires, love. What makes Lee’s considerations all the more wondrous, is that is his directorial feature-length debut.
MICHAEL D HOLLICK
God’s Own Country runs at ECU Joondalup Pines from 6-11 Feb. For tickets and more information, visit the event page here.