God’s Own Country Screen 13 articles

God’s Own Country


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  • On the one hand, the sight of their mud-spattered pale white skin is visually striking. On the other, it feels like the camera is gawking at them rather than joining them, and so all semblance of reality and of the necessary awkwardness of getting their clothes off vanishes. And so too does any real eroticism.

  • It's a tricky movie, but not in a way that’s dishonest. Its first feet are in the school of miserablist realism, and while director Lee never abandons his things-as-they-are approach, he tells a love story by letting magic in at unusual angles. Most of which involve, yes, God’s own country, a ravishing landscape captured beautifully by the cinematography of Joshua James Williams. The land can be contended with, inhabited, but it can’t ever be tamed, is what the images tell us.

  • What if a movie followed another movie's trajectory almost exactly but decided to go in a happy direction instead? Turns out that it works! A wholly impressive debut. Yes, the specter of Brokeback Mountain looms heavily over God's Own Country; it's unavoidable. From the rural setting to the taciturn protagonists to the material fact of sheepherding, there's a lot of overlap.

  • A troubled, taciturn young man on a remote Yorkshire farm is the keen focus of first-time film-maker Francis Lee’s intense romance God’s Own Country. Lee’s love for this hard land and the boy trapped in it – so fully embodied by young British actor Josh O’Connor – is unexpectedly moving and rich. This is a small production that is big in heart, honesty and raw talent.

  • The great pleasure of God’s Own Country lies in its gentle subversion of queer cinema tropes... As it transpires that Johnny faces fewer obstacles to happiness than he evidently feared, Lee calmly builds to an emotional payoff that’s all the more satisfying for its simplicity and restraint. This is one of the most assured, fully-formed British debuts of recent years.

  • Lee shows sex and physicality without just referring to it in narrative ellipses (the most tiresome trope of so many gay films), usually opting for a simple two shot that enhances the steaminess rather than a sequence with a lot of cuts that leaves many gay viewers (including this one) wanting to see more. This choice heightens both the eroticism and the intimacy.

  • Unlike so many films in this category, this is not about coming out, at least not in the traditional sense — Johnny’s sexuality is a pre-established fact, however unspoken it may be in that household. If anything, it portrays a painfully, magnificently real character coming out as worthy of love, like it's a gift he didn't know he wanted and could never have believed he deserved. It’s not despite Johnny’s gayness, but because of it that the journey is so captivating.

  • Fifty years after the Sexual Offences Act partially legalised male homosexuality in Britain, the parallels with Brokeback Mountain show how far attitudes towards LGBT people have changed – the sensibility of God’s Own Country is decidedly post-gay. Yet the explicit references to Lee’s western are unnecessary – God’s Own Country is one of the most exciting British debuts of the past decade, and homages to better-known films threaten to distract from Lee’s powerful vision.

  • The film has drawn comparisons with Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, but for me there were closer parallels with Eytan Fox’s Israeli drama Yossi & Jagger, about the relationship between two soldiers. Both stories take place in a macho world between men who find the physicality of love rather easier than articulating it. But when the words are finally spoken, it’s a moment to make the heart swell.

  • Filmed with a naturalism that recalls Andrea Arnold’s 2012 dive into “Wuthering Heights,” “God’s Own Country” weaves a rough magic from Joshua James Richards’s biting cinematography and the story’s slow, unsteady arc from bitter to hopeful. Bodily fluids stain the screen, punctuating a story that’s as much about rediscovering place as finding love. So when Gheorghe looks out at the brooding countryside and murmurs “It’s beautiful here,” we sense that Johnny really doesn’t need persuading.

  • It's so moving because Lee manages to paint a multi-dimensional portrait of Johnny and his family dynamics—one that feels at once incredibly British and uncannily familiar. This is a film about masculinity as an impossible and necessarily toxic project. Lee captures not only what masculinity does and how it comes undone, but the complex apparatus that keeps it into place: the family's surveillance, the silence, the shame.

  • At its heart, God's Own Country is an intensely full-throttle, grand love story and a coming-of-age parable in which an emotionally stunted boy finds his path to manhood eased through the tenderness and care of a lover. In a coda that underlines Lee's love for his habitat and his people the movie erupts into golden rapture with real-life footage of a bunch of boys laughing in a flatbed truck as their families pitch in to bale hay. Isn't it romantic?

  • Its look is especially important considering the shortage of dialogue—I’m always confused by what people mean when they liken a contemporary film to a silent film, but I’d imagine this is as close as one can get in earnest without creating an overt pastiche. Some of the outdoor scenes are reminiscent of Victor Sjöström’s THE WIND, the beautiful men and their muted romance magnificently small against the glorious terrain, worthy of the titular nomenclature.

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