God’s Own Country (2017): Francis Lee’s Tale of Self Discovery and Sexual Awakening (LGBTQ, Gay)

Francis Lee’s impressive film debut, God’s Own Country, is a contemporary tale of self-discovery and sexual-emotional awakening, firmly set on the sheep farming hills of rural England.

God’s Own Country
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theatrical release poster

The movie world premiered in the world drama category at the 2017 Sundance Film Fest, where it won Best Directing award.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

The tale’s protagonist, Johnny, lives on the family farm with his father, Martin, and grandmother, Deirdre. Due to his father’s stroke and grandmother’s age, he is in charge of the farm.  In his free time, Johnny engages in binge drinking and furtive sexual encounters with other men. Returning late to the farm after such an encounter with a young auctioneer, he is berated by his father because a calf has died in his absence.

Enter Gheorghe, a Romanian migrant worker hired as extra help for the season. He spends his first night in a caravan that the family has arranged for him. As the ewes have moved away from the farm, and as part of the farm’s boundary wall remains unrepaired by Johnny, Johnny and Gheorghe spend several days camping nearer to the animals.

When one of the ewes gives birth to an unconscious runt, Johnny is intrigued by Gheorghe’s sensitive ability to resuscitate and care for it.  One morning, after Johnny refers to Gheorghe yet again as a “gypsy,” Gheorghe tackles him to the ground.

Later on, the two men again engage in a fight which results in Johnny performing fellatio on Gheorghe, followed by rough and passionate sex in the dirt. However, initially, Johnny does not acknowledge the encounter or recognize its meaning.

That night, Gheorghe resists Johnny’s aggressive move for rough sex, instead patiently showing him that sex can also be tender, and the two men kiss for the first time.

Returning to the farm, Johnny invites Gheorghe to stay with him in the house, but Gheorghe elects to remain in the caravan. When Martin suffers a second stroke, Johnny realizes that running the farm is now his responsibility, and asks Gheorghe to stay with him. When Gheorghe expresses uncertainty, Johnny reacts poorly, drinking to excess and the couple engages in another random sexual encounter, after which  Gheorghe leaves the farm abruptly

Martin, debilitated, is released from the hospital. Desperate to make up with Gheorghe, Johnny tells his father that he will run the farm, if things must are on his terms. Martin gives his tacit approval, and Johnny sets off to bring Gheorghe back to the farm.

Finding Gheorghe working in Scotland, the two men reconcile, and Gheorghe returns with Johnny to the farm.

Though it’s a first film, Lee already shows maturity in handling a quietly moving tale of male loneliness and the need for intimacy, resulting in a uniquely British love story with some universal chords.

In its expression of unspoken emotions, powerful physical attraction, and unvoiced fears about the future of a gay bond, God’s Own Country drew some comparisons with Ang Lee’s 2005 Oscar winning Brokeback Mountain.

 

For this film, O’Connor, then 27, won the 2017 British Independent Film Award for Best Actor,

 

Credits:

Directed, written by Francis Lee
Produced by Manon Ardisson, Jack Tarling

Written by Francis Lee
Music by A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Cinematography Joshua James Richards
Edited by Chris Wyatt

Distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment

Release date January 23, 2017 (Sundance); September 1, 2017 (UK)

Running time: 105 minutes

nd also as a “very British love story, bursting at the seams with