Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives a bleak, repetitive life working on his father’s (Ian Hart) farm in Yorkshire. Uncommunicative, he barely exists. Nightly boozing sessions and casual sex don’t seem to bring him any happiness or release as his disabled father lectures him on how to run the farm and his terse grandmother (Gemma Jones) looks on disapprovingly. Weighed down by the burden of his responsibilities, there appears to be no way out from his mundanely routine existence until the family take on Romanian farmhand Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) for the lambing season and the pair slowly form a bond out on the vast, windswept Yorkshire moors.
Writer/Director Francis Lee makes a hugely impressive debut here, keeping dialogue to a bare minimum for the majority of the film, the stark Yorkshire landscape becomes another character, one which both stifles and sets our protagonists free. O’Connor makes the mono-syllabic Johnny believable and sympathetic. He’s angry at his situation yet remains to support the family, finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel courtesy of the bright and warm Gheorghe who sees right through his surly exterior. Both he and Secareanu are superb as the young lovers, they deliver a tender love story that never once hits a false note whilst Hart and Jones provide classy support.
Undoubtedly God’s Own Country will draw comparisons to Brokeback Mountain, but here Johnny and Gheorghe’s sexuality is no secret. A poetic, stark and captivating love story with two extraordinary performances from the leads, God’s Own Country is essential cinema.