Film Review: God’s Own Country

Review by Dash Wilson.

Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), is a young Yorkshire sheep-farmer emotionally shut off due to isolation and the necessity to keep his family farm running after his father is paralysed and his grandmother too old to work. When a Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) comes to help out on the farm, Johnny is forced to confront his fears about being loved and ultimately his future.

Written and directed by Francis Lee, God’s Own Country has been gaining traction on the festival circuit over the last year. What is clearly a personal story to Lee has been bought to life on screen with exemplary performances and absolutely stunning cinematography by Joshua James Richards (Songs My Brothers Taught Me). There is also a true sense of realism to the film. The scenes on the farm with the animals are infused with authenticity and the tense (and very British) relationship between Johnny and his father is exceptionally well done.

However, while this is an impressive debut feature, it is also one that borrows heavily from Brokeback Mountain (2005). Honestly, it is almost shot for shot remake, simply having moved the action from the American West to the lush hills of Yorkshire, England. There a sequence towards the end of the film where Johnny finds Gheorge’s woollen jumper. It is a complete copy of the now infamous blue shirt of Jack Twist (Heath Ledger that Ennis Del Mar (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds in the cupboard upon Jack’s death. It has only been ten years since Ang Lee’s modern masterpiece hit our screens and one of the undeniable downfalls of God’s Own Country is that it feels like a British copy rather than an original piece of cinema.

To its credit, God’s Own Country does have a far more uplifting and hopeful ending than its predecessor but because of its similarities and lack of originality it does lose some of the emotional resonance it could have had.

Reviewed at the 2017 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF).

Review by Dash Wilson.

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