Rangy, ruddy Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor - who we loved in The Durrells) lives on a farm with his dour and aging parents. His days are spent in mucky hands-on proximity to the livestock and in anticipation of his father’s disappointment; his evenings are spent at the local pub, resenting those of his contemporaries who escaped to university.
Johnny’s milieu isn’t an explicitly homophobic one, but it doesn’t have to be. The incongruity of homosexuality in this environment is palpable. Johnny is in such denial of himself that he barely exists.
Alec Secareanu as Gheorghe
Enter gorgeous Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a Romanian hired by Johnny’s father to help out on the farm. As quiet and uncomplaining as he first appears to be, Gheorghe turns out to be more sensualist than stoic. His alchemical effect on Johnny is begrudging and gradual, until quite suddenly it’s not.
The film’s chief delight – its tingly, heart-racing thrill – is in watching Johnny gradually unfurl into an alert, alive, emotionally receptive person, a young man stirring beneath his own lunkishness before finally wrestling out from under it. O’Connor’s performance is as captivating and complex as Florence Pugh’s in Lady Macbeth. As with Pugh, O'Connor is very human even when most animal, and vice versa.
At 47, writer/director Francis Lee has made his feature debut. It would have been worth it if he’d waited to be 100. God’s Own Country is a superb evocation of first love, and a smart dissection of the hearts we love with. Beautiful.
|What||God's Own Country film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
01 Sep 17 – 01 Mar 19, Times Vary
|Price||£determined by cinema|