God’s Own Country, written and directed by Francis Lee, is at times lonely; it is at times beautiful, but it is at all times honest. I at first didn’t find myself that pulled in by the film; the main character made me a little standoffish. But as it progressed and the true beauty and fulfilment of the film came to me, I became utterly surrounded by it. But why was that? What was it about this film that now makes me consider it one of my favourite films of the year so far? Well, let’s find out in my review.
Due to his Father, Martin Saxby – played by Ian Hart – being too sick to help on the farm anymore, Johnny Saxby – played by Josh O’Connor – is soon joined by Gheorghe Ionescu – played by Alec Secareanu – to help out. At first, Johnny is not fond of having him around, but what starts off as a hostile relationship, soon begins to evolve into something much deeper and more intimate, as Johnny and Gheorghe fall for one another. However, the rural area might not be the most accepting place for their relationship, nor may the two of them be as compatible as they seem to think.
This film is its two lead characters and their story. Beginning with Johnny, the film does a great job of bringing us into his life; his environment, and the closed off loneliness that controls him. It is an absolutely stellar performance by Josh O’Connor who holds much of the film up by himself, though there are two wonderful supporting performances from Ian Jones (Deidre Saxby, Johnny’s Mother) and Ian Hart (Martin Saxby, Johnny’s Father). They help to expand upon the character of Josh and they also bring their part to the greater story of the film.
As a family, they are not the most inviting. Their home life is one of coldness and distance and it really helps to set up what will become a transformative journey for all – it was one that got me choked up on more than one occasion.
Josh O’Connor’s performance is nuanced in its delivery and its depth. He presents a damaged, lonely, angry individual; one that you at first might struggle to like. But as the film progresses, you learn of why he is like this and you want nothing more but to see him either escape or find a morsel of happiness, and there is only one person who can seemingly help him do that…
Gheorghe Ionescu (Alec Secareanu) is the other piece to this stunning film. He brings a much different vibe to the film. He is someone of control and knowledge; a person who creates an almost comforting level of security to the experience. We don’t learn as much about Gheorghe and his past, as the film is first and foremost, Johnny’s story, and beyond that it is the transformative effect that Gheorghe has on it – and it is quite the effect. Alec Secareanu’s performance of the character is one that supports what is needed for the character. He brings this new presence to the film and he is able to alter the tone of a scene by simply being there (saying nothing) which is a powerful thing for an actor to be able to do – especially within a film as intimate as this one.
So, both characters grow, but Johnny more so. It was a growth – an evolution that by the end, completely overwhelmed me. I was sitting there in my seat, and inside my head was screaming out for the character to do the right thing; to fix things. I was completely invested in Johnny and Gheorghe’s relationship and it became something I was consumed by. If you stay with this film (which, why wouldn’t you) it really rewards you for spending so much time with them; investing in their story.
What I found to be one of the most striking aspects of this film and its ability to hold every bit of my focus, was how much of it was delivered through a controlling silence. Multiple scenes can go by without a word being spoken; without a song laying in the background of the moment. It was purely the actors, the landscape and the quiet that existed between the two of them. It’s one of the reasons the film feels so intimate and so magnetising. It’s as if it is just you and the characters and no one else, which in turn is why I think I made such a strong connection to this film. I felt like I was a part of their journey. That’s powerful – especially in the context of this film.
God’s Own Country is a beautiful, impactful, crushing film – it truly takes you upon a marathon of emotions and feelings. For an experience that is so quiet and reflective, it is a loud, bold first outing for director Francis Lee. I was at no point ready for how overwhelming and how special, God’s Own Country was going to be, but it was absolutely worth it. Two men, falling in love, while working on a rural farm, had more depth and more beauty to it than most of the films I’ve seen this year.
I am absolutely recommending God’s Own Country. I walked out of the cinema knowing that this was one of my favourite films, I had seen this year. It says more, it does more and it accomplished more than I ever expected, and the best way I can descried it, is beautiful.
I would love to know what you thought of the film and my review. So please leave any feedback, opinions etc. in the comments section down below. I would also appreciate it if you could give both my blog a follow and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – as it might help more people find this site. I’ll leave you by simply saying thank you and that I hope you have a wonderful day.