The film focuses on Johnny (Josh O’Connor), a young man whose life is forever changed when he is forced to work with a Romanian immigrant on his Yorkshire farm.
Johnny simmers with rage, drinks himself blotto when he can and has quick sex with random locals.
But when his ailing father forces him to work with Gheorghe (the handsome Alec Secareanu), Johnny finds his irritation falling way to desire and then something much more powerful.
Johnny, though he could never articulate it, has been starving his entire life for affection. His father seems as hard as the land; his grandmother is old and seems fueled by sheer will power. His mother abandoned the family when Johnny was young, unable to endure the bleakness of their existence. Johnny sees nothing but responsibilities to the land that he never asked for.
Then Gheorghe arrives.
Johnny resents the newcomer’s presence.
The two eventually clash and crash and have a rough sexual encounter in the mud.
The next time they get close, Gheorghe guides Johnny. He gently caresses Johnny, and Johnny kisses him, and although it is never stated, you know Johnny well enough to know this is his first kiss, his first genuine intimacy with any man. The two make love, and the way Johnny clings to Gheorghe, it’s as if he’s taking his first true breath.
Johnny being Johnny, he mucks up his connection to Gheorghe, but he pushes himself to make it right.
Spoiler alert: This is a film that skips the cliches of gay cinema. This is not a film that ends in death, destruction or despair.
Director Francis Lee tells his story with a minimum of dialogue and a maximum of realism. You might learn more about raising sheep than you ever wanted. O’Connor and Secareanu share understated performances and a poignant romance.
“God’s Own Country” captures a man awakening to the possibilities of love, of hope, of dreams for a tender tomorrow. It’s a film worthy of a place in your library.