DVD/Blu Ray review by Jack Cline
Set in West Yorkshire, this gay drama has been at the forefront of the awards season, nominated by Bafta, the British Independent Film Awards and the London Critics’ Circle. And rightly so. This film is written, directed and acted with unusual skill, sharply capturing both the expansive settings and the darker character details.
It’s the story of Johnny (Josh O’Connor), who is running the family sheep farm after his father (Ian Hart) has been disabled by a stroke. Johnny hooks up with random men at every opportunity, but resists emotional connections. Then the seriously hot Romanian immigrant Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) arrives to work on the farm. As a spark develops between them, Gheorghe begins to teach Johnny that it’s possible to have both sex and love with a man.
Writer-director Francis Lee brings an understated complexity that lets the characters breathe, beautifully captured by gifted cinematographer Joshua James Richards (watch it on the biggest screen possible). A tender romance, the film also has subtle nods to present-day issues like economic stress, immigration, generational clashes and Brexit politics. But refreshingly, it’s never about being closeted or facing homophobia, and it ends on a surprising hopeful note.
DVD extras include a series of short deleted and extended scenes. Cut out of the final film to smooth the narrative, they add intriguing additional glimpses into the characters’ personalities. For example, there’s a brief scene of Johnny out cruising in the woods, and a few moments of pointed interaction between each of the central characters.
God’s Own Country is released on DVD/VOD on Monday 29 January.
The rising star
After roles in film (Florence Foster Jenkins) and television (The Durrells), British actor Josh O’Connor has been gathering awards and nominations for his lead performance in God’s Own Country. It’s a role he knew he wanted when he first read writer-director Francis Lee’s script.
“I found the world Francis had created to be so rich, so authentic and clear. I was transfixed,” Josh says. “I also liked that we meet an angry man – closed off, emotionally unavailable, inarticulate – and then we introduce an almost angelic character in Gheorghe, who gradually over the course of the film begins to initiate change in Johnny. I was interested by that kind of journey.”
Josh and co-star Alec Secareanu have powerful chemistry on-screen. “When I first met Alec it was immediately apparent that he was extremely gifted and perfect for the role,” Josh says. “But we didn’t interact until we first met on screen. We wanted it to be totally natural and a little hostile! That said, the sex scenes were kind of the best part of the shoot. Francis created an incredibly safe environment on-set.”
As for his other co-stars, Josh admits that he had never worked with sheep before. “Although I can now say that I would happily work with them again!” JC