Gods’s Own Country tells of the self and struggle – uncensored
The opening scene of Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country gives its viewers a warning: this film will not cover up any cracks. The film tells the story of Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a troubled young farmer. In between binge drinking and casual sex, Johnny takes on much of the labour at his father’s farm. The family hire a Romanian migrant, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), to help for a week during lambing season, sparking off an unexpected complex relationship of hate, bitterness, frustration, and lust between the two young men.
It is a film stripped back: it doesn’t hide behind the clean and stylised shots you would get in a Hollywood movie. The story, of the life of a farmer, is a mundane one. But this does not allow for the film to shy away from the harsh realities that an everyday working life can face. There is violence, lust, compassion, and hate all found within a small farm in Yorkshire. It is full of sharp edges and shocking realities that we all know exist, but avoid facing. It’s a romance, without the bullshit.
The film is told from the perspective of Johnny, and the raw intensity of his story is fulfilled by the complete exposure of his life and everything he faces: from the graphic birthing of a lamb to Johnny vomiting after a night of heavy drinking. In this sense, it is a tale far from censored. At the hand of his father’s constant disapproval, Johnny is the epitome of a self-destructive young man. A character type frustrating to watch, but one which we can all identify with in one way or another. He is a boy who has been thrown into life, stuck between the duty of helping his father and the frustration of not being able to explore who he is. This internal turmoil sets out his path of ruination, one which we all as fallible human beings are susceptible to.
Johnny faces a hard hit of reality, and is forced to deal with the pressures that come with it. He encounters the difficulty one has of finding perspective when you’re stuck in the same routine for so long, one passed through generations. However, within this complex and raw reality, the film does not shy away from romanticism. At times, the love between these men explodes with charming compassion. They are two individuals, in love, and therefore victims of vulnerability that love gives. The film uses love in all its forms: its enlightening qualities, as well as its destructive ones. How love and heartbreak can wake you up, making you realise the changes you may need to make to your life.
Ultimately, through the complex psychology of its protagonist, the film’s plot considers why we self-destruct, and how love can set us free from this destructive mindset. It is an uncut story of the self.
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